February 14, 2009

Computers Reported Missing At US Nuclear Lab

Eighty computers belonging to a major US nuclear weapons lab have gone missing, been lost or stolen, according to an internal memo.

The Project On Government Oversight cited the memo that admits the losses at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Los Alamos was created as a secret facility during World War II and was the site for the Manhattan Project that gave birth to the first nuclear bombs.

"This DOE memo shows that the Lab admits that 67 computers are currently 'missing', and that 13 have been lost or stolen in the past year alone," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the nonprofit watchdog group Project On Government Oversight (POGO). "It is troubling that the contractor only informed the government of this during investigations into the most recent thefts."

Additionally, the Los Alamos Site Office (LASO) expressed frustration with LANL's decision to treat the lost computers merely as a property management issue, and not as a potential lapse in cyber security, according to POGO.

"This incident has revealed several property management, accountability, incident reporting and cyber security concerns," wrote Department of Energy Contracting Officer Robert Poole in the letter addressed to Department of Energy security officials.

"The magnitude of exposure and risk to the laboratory is at best unclear as little data on these losses has been collected or pursued," the letter dated February 3 reads.

POGO added that it is concerned that the memo fails to mention that a LANL BlackBerry recently went missing in a "sensitive foreign country."

"It's great to see that the federal overseer is more aggressively pursuing its oversight role," said Peter Stockton, POGO Senior Investigator. "But, the true test of how rigorous the government will be in holding the Lab to high security standards will be whether LASO significantly cuts LANL's contract performance fees for FY09."


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