December 6, 2006 - MARKEY CALLS ON DOE CHIEF TO PREVENT FUTURE NUCLEAR DATA BREACHES, ADDRESS CHRONIC SECURITY PROBLEMS AT LOS ALAMOS NUCLEAR LAB

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman asking him critical questions about a significant breach in the security of classified data at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico.  Rep. Markey is seeking a full explanation for an incident that occurred in October in which a former LANL subcontractor’s home was involved in a drug raid that turned up highly sensitive nuclear data on removable electronic media. 

 

Rep. Markey, a longtime critic of lax security at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) nuclear laboratories, highlighted the chronic security problems that have plagued the nation’s most sensitive nuclear research facilities including the repeated and broken promises by DOE officials to establish better security procedures at LANL and other U.S. nuclear labs. 
 
“Security breaches at Los Alamos have always been met with shock, outrage and promises by Los Alamos and the Department of Energy to switch to technologies and processes that would prevent another loss of nuclear secrets.  But the promises are never kept, and sensitive nuclear information is never secured. I’m looking forward to complete answers and serious action from Secretary Bodman regarding this latest nuclear data breach, including an assessment of the security damages and new measures to re-establish security for what should be our most closely-kept nuclear secrets,” Rep. Markey said.
Rep. Markey’s letter to Sec. Bodman is below:
December 5, 2006
The Honorable Samuel Bodman
Secretary, Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, D.C., 20585
Dear Mr. Secretary:
            I am writing regarding the recent discovery of highly classified removable electronic media (CREM) in a former Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) contractor’s home during a drug bust.  As you are well aware, the security of these materials has been highly problematic for many years. In response to press reports on this discovery, you recently stated that “unfortunately we cannot correct the errors of the past. But we will learn from this incident and we will do better.”   Unfortunately, despite your best personal intentions, I am concerned that the Department of Energy (DOE) has had many years and many opportunities to ‘correct the errors of the past,’ and has persistently failed to do so.  As a result, I have serious reservations that the Department will take the necessary steps to do remedy persistent nuclear security problems at this facility.
            As you know, on October 17, CREM containing highly sensitive nuclear information was found during a drug bust at the home of Jessica Quintana, a former employee of a LANL subcontractor.  The FBI and the DOE are reportedly continuing to investigate this matter.  The DOE’s Inspector General (IG) concluded in a report released last week that “In a number of key areas, security policy was non-existent, applied inconsistently or not followed.” From my long experience as a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight over the management of DOE, the IG’s conclusion represents only the latest instance of the Department’s failure to properly address security concerns associated with how classified material is treated. 
After the Wen Ho Lee incident (in which Dr. Lee had reportedly taken classified materials home and had been accused of improperly copying them onto portable storage media), LANL announced new security measures for safeguarding them.  In fact, on May 5, 1999, then-Los Alamos lab Director John Browne testified at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (see http://markey.house.gov.

 ###



 

 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 6, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein
202.225.2836