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Lab Firings Over Drives Unlikely

By Jennifer McKee
Albuquerque Journal

The University of California has started doling out punishment to Los Alamos lab workers involved in the disappearance of a pair of top-secret hard drives this summer, but according to a university spokesman, no one will lose his job.

Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory said in September that at least one person was expected to be fired over the drives' disappearance.

Jeff Garberson, a UC spokesman, said the university has continued its investigation into the missing and later reappearing hard drives since then. The hard drives contained classified information about how to disable a nuclear bomb.

The review focused mainly on LANL's failure to report the missing hard drives to the U.S. Department of Energy for several weeks, the agency that oversees the lab. The university is contracted to oversee the lab.

Based on those further interviews, university reviewers have since decided termination was not necessary.

The review is still continuing, Garberson said, but some employees already have been punished. He would not say how many had been disciplined, what the punishments entailed or how many employees still were awaiting a final word from the university on their punishment.

Garberson said both managers and rank-and-file employees had been disciplined.

"The process is still under way," he said. "That's all I can tell you."

A lab spokesperson declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the FBI, along with the Department of Energy, is continuing its own, criminal investigation into the matter.

"The DOE continues to work with the FBI looking into this incident," said Natalie Wymer, a spokeswoman at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C. "Secretary (Bill) Richardson is eager for it to conclude quickly with no evidence of espionage."

Local FBI officials were not available for comment.

Lab employees noticed the drives were missing in early May, shortly before the weapons lab was evacuated for the Cerro Grande Fire. The drives were still gone on May 22 when team members were admitted back into the lab. LANL didn't tell DOE about their disappearance until June 1.

Both drives later resurfaced behind a copy machine on June 16.

Los Alamos Study Group • 2901 Summit Place NE • Albuquerque, NM 87106 • ph 505-265-1200

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