No Espionage Evidence at Los Alamos

Wednesday, June 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI has found no evidence of espionage or indications that missing computer disks containing nuclear secrets ever left the Los Alamos weapons lab, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said Wednesday.

He also told a Senate hearing that a grand jury has been convened to consider the case. Investigators have lifted fingerprints from wrappings of the hard drives, which apparently disappeared in late March and reappeared last week behind a copying machine.

``The FBI has now determined that these are the authentic disk drives. ... So far there is no evidence of espionage, nor is there evidence that the drives have ever left the Los Alamos X Division,'' Richardson told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Richardson said ``the working theory'' is that the two drives, which contain information on how to dismantle an array of nuclear devices, disappeared ``at the tail end of March of this year'' but that the time has yet to be pinpointed.

The disks were discovered missing from the highly secured vault on May 7 by members of a nuclear emergency response team, but the disappearance was not reported to senior lab managers or the Energy Department for 24 days.

``We do not know everything, but we do know more about this case this morning,'' Richardson said, appearing for the first time on Capitol Hill to discuss the security flap that has prompted some senators to call for his resignation.

Republican members of the Armed Services Committee opened the hearing with a blistering attack on Richardson, saying he had broken promises made a year ago to assure that secrets are safe at the nation's weapons labs.

``You've lost all credibility,'' Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told Richardson. He reiterated his view that Richardson ought to resign.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said he would soon introduce legislation directing an examination of whether the nuclear weapons programs, including the labs, should be turned over to an independent agency or the Defense Department.