With nearly all weapons research put on hold, a top Energy Department official arrived at Los Alamos National Laboratory on Monday to oversee a top-to-bottom review prompted by a string of security breaches.
Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow's visit came as the lab responded to yet another report of security lapses — an unconfirmed, anonymous tip that classified information had been sent over the lab's unclassified e-mail system 17 times in recent months.
The tip was relayed by the Project on Government Oversight, a private watchdog group.
"The most recent incident," POGO said, "occurred on July 15 when a Los Alamos lawyer sent a classified e-mail from his home computer to multiple people at Los Alamos."
The lab said Sunday the incident had been reported to the government and steps had been taken to "prevent significant risk to national security."
Last week, lab director Pete Nanos called for a stand-down on all but the most essential national security activities while officials investigate security lapses and conduct a wall-to-wall inventory of classified information at Los Alamos. The move was prompted in part byreported missing at the lab earlier this month.
Los Alamos has been under intense scrutiny since November 2002, when allegations surfaced about purchasing fraud, equipment theft and mismanagement. The ensuing scandal prompted an overhaul of lab business policies and a culling of top managers.
The University of California has managed the lab for the federal government since it was created 61 years ago to build the atomic bomb. Because of the lapses, the Energy Department has decided to put the management contract up for bid when it expires in 2005.
By Richard Benke