2 possible security lapses found at Los Alamos lab

Sunday, June 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – An inventory of all classified data at Los Alamos National Laboratory, taken in response to criticism over the disappearance of two top-secret hard drives, has found two more possible security breaches, a lab official said Saturday.

Two 10-year-old floppy disks containing classified information were reported missing Wednesday at the nuclear-weapons lab.

But they were found a day later, attached to a paper report in a nearby secured area. And apparently, no classified information was compromised, lab spokesman Jim Danneskiold said.

This and the second case, involving an unlocked door, aren't as serious as the missing computer hard drives, but Mr. Danneskiold said the disappearance of the floppy disks will be investigated by the Department of Energy, which oversees the lab.

The disks "are obsolete. Very few, if any, computers are around that can read them," he said. The disks had last been recorded in an inventory conducted two years ago.

Mr. Danneskiold said he didn't know how the disks got misplaced and would not disclose what type of information they contained.

In the second incident, Mr. Danneskiold said, a computer technician left an equipment closet unlocked inside a secure room. The room door was locked, however.

Mr. Danneskiold said the lab is itemizing classified data in response to the disappearance of the hard drives.

"We've instituted a number of additional security measures beyond what's required," he said.

A grand jury has been convened to look into the two-month disappearance of the drives from the lab's top-secret X Division. The drives resurfaced mysteriously behind a copier near the vault where they were discovered missing May 7.

The drives held information that would be needed to locate and dismantle U.S. or even foreign nuclear devices that might be used in a terrorist attack.

In addition, former Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee is in jail awaiting trial and could face a maximum sentence of life in prison for security violations. He was arrested in December and accused of illegally copying top-secret nuclear weapons files while working in the X Division.

The copies of the files he allegedly made have not been found.