"The presumed missing computer disks that forced the security shutdown and political uproar at Los Alamos National Lab, appear to not be missing at all," according to a New Mexico television station.
KRQE News 13 has learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has concluded the disks, thought to have contained nuclear weapon secrets, were never missing.In early July, lab officials announced that the disks were missing, prompting a massive and unprecedented security shutdown and consequent investigation. Nearly two dozen scientists and administrators were placed on leave and virtually all lab operations were suspended.Now, sources tell KRQE News 13s Larry Barker that FBI investigators have concluded the disks in question, generally called 'Classified Removable Electronic Media' or C.R.E.M., were never missing and may have never existed in the first place.The clerical error appears to center around the bar codes used to track classified material. The bar code stickers that would have been found on the supposed missing disks were instead discovered still affixed to their original printed forms.The FBI declined comment on this report and the lab says it will release the findings of its investigation when appropriate.Much of the lab's classified work is still shut down pending the outcome of a Department of Energy review.The shut down has called into question the University of Californias management of the facility, made longtime political supporters question lab practices and has cost taxpayers millions of dollars."It may be that what we have here is a false positive -- the system says something is missing when it is not," Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Los Alamos' top defender in Congress, tells the AP. "And just as if it were a medical test, it is better to find out the inventory was wrong than that the disks were actually missing. But this entire situation only reinforces that we need to improve the inventory system."THERE'S MORE: The theory among Los Alamos scientists now is that "someone tried to save time by creating the paperwork for the disks before they were actually made.""You can imagine people trying to streamline things," said astrophysicist Charles Keller tells the Times. "Maybe the information fit on fewer disks than was anticipated. I'm not saying that's how it happened, but it's what people do when they're trying to make their work run smoothly."