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Nuclear weapons data leak from Los Alamos

Drug dealer turns up with USB drives of highly classified information.

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A drug dealer has been found with classified information stored on USB drives from the Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear weapons testing facility in the USA.

According to unconfirmed sources, the information was classified as Secret Restricted Data which means it would involve nuclear weapons data and may have concerned detection of underground nuclear weapons testing. Also unconfirmed, the person in possession of the information worked either in Technical Area 55 where all of the Lab’s plutonium is stored or in the X Division which handles nuclear weapons design data for a maintenance subcontractor of the Lab.

"This appears to be a new low, even drug dealers can get classified information out of Los Alamos," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). Two years ago, Los Alamos Lab (LANL) was plagued by a series of incidents involving safety, the mishandling of classified information and the loss of computer disks containing classified information.

On 23July 2004, the US Department of Energy shut down operations involving removal drives or Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) across the entire Los Alamos nuclear weapons complex. A subsequent review by the Department of Energy noted "the weaknesses revealed by this incident are severe and must be corrected".

In May 2005, the Department of Energy outlined a new plan "to move to diskless workstations for classified computing." However progress at getting rid of removable drives has been painfully slow. According to a November 2005 Government Accountability Office report: "LANL security officials told us that as a result of reports of missing CREM in late 2003, LANL undertook an inventory of its CREM holdings and reduced its holdings from over 80,000 pieces to about 35,000 pieces by moving the information stored on CREM to secure networks and then destroying the CREM.

"LANL further reduced its CREM holdings to 20,000 pieces during the stand-down, according to these officials." As of April 2006, Los Alamos reported that its CREM holdings had been reduced to roughly 13,000 pieces.

A Los Alamos police report about the drug bust can be read here and here.


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