It's become a recurring nightmare for managers at the nation's most important nuclear weapons lab: a hard drive or disk, filled with classified information, goes missing. And suddenly, Los Alamos officials, trying to remerge from years of scandal, have a whole lot of explaining to do.The latest episode came to light Thursday, after Los Alamos admitted that, since a Monday inventory check, its custodians hadn't been able to find a "classified removable electronic media," or CREM -- disks and drives inscribed with the country's secrets.A Los Alamos press release played down the incident, calling it "a single accounting discrepancy (that) in no way constitutes a compromise of national security." Los Alamos has tens of thousands of removable hard drives, discs and memory sticks. When one can't be found, it's usually because of something innocent, like "administrative errors" or outdated machinery.But lab critics were hearing none of it."Can't they ever get anything right?" said Los Alamos security consultant-turned-whistleblower Glenn Walp. "They take the same old corporate line: 'It's not us, it's the system.' How refreshing it would be if someone at that place would have the backbone to admit they screwed up."My Wired News story has details.THERE'S MORE: After deadline, the office of Rep. Chris Shays, who's been all over the nuclear security issue, e-mailed with the following statement:
The most recent event of another missing Department of Energy (DOE) computer is just the latest manifestation of longstanding, almost cultural, security problems at some national laboratory facilities. Some time ago, Senator Grassley and I asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to examine whether DOE has effectively organized efforts to secure national laboratory assets and data. We expect to receive preliminary result from that review late this summer.I applaud Secretary Abraham's recent initiative to strengthen security over sensitive information and facilities. However, DOE's plan to initiate those changes in phases over a five year period is too long. Security enhancement should be identified immediately and implemented more quickly, before missing keys or lost computer discs cause real damage to national security."