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Report: Lab Managers Obstructed Probe

June 28, 2003

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Internal investigators at one of the nation’s nuclear weapons labs were obstructed by higher-ups, according to a summary of the report released by Sandia National Laboratories.

The summary, released Friday, questions the lab management’s handling of several security investigations, including a set of master keys that disappeared for several days.

While the investigators were obstructed in one case, they were not retaliated against, the report said. It also noted that Sandia officials had taken steps to correct errors.

``Did the report uncover any mistakes or problems? Yes,″ said former New Mexico U.S. Attorney Norman Bay, an author of the report, which was commissioned by the lab. ``But Sandia is taking vigorous steps to correct any problems.″

Previous reviews by the lab and the National Nuclear Security Administration found management problems affecting security, including instances when supervisors failed to follow up on tips from investigators.

The report released Friday is a summary of a review that the lab does not plan to publicly release, citing personnel reasons.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who has seen the full report, last week called it a whitewash, saying it failed to address some troubling issues.

But Bay said the report’s authors were not commissioned to comprehensively investigate security at the lab.

Sandia commissioned the review in August after internal investigators Pat O’Neill and Mark Ludwig went to upper management with criticisms of lab security. In March, lab President C. Paul Robinson went public with some of the security concerns, including the missing master keys.

The report concluded that O’Neill and Ludwig were obstructed during an investigation into a lab employee who improperly obtained salary information on a colleague. The report said two witnesses were told not to volunteer information and one department destroyed a computer hard drive days after it had been assigned to the investigation.

On Tuesday, Dave Nokes, Sandia’s vice president for national security and arms control, announced his retirement. Robinson said the move was prompted by findings that Nokes’ office impeded an internal security investigation.

O’Neill and Ludwig also accused supervisors of retaliating against them for pressing investigations, but the report concluded that those claims were unfounded.

The master keys went missing for several days in May 2000. After the incident was publicized Sandia managers said that classified information was never endangered. But they recently announced that they are replacing all the locks in the affected area.

The summary cited other two incidents that ``amounted to an obvious red flag″ that Sandia’s security force needed ``strong, corrective management action.″

In the spring of 2001, 13 on-duty security officers were caught on tape watching television, reading, talking on the telephone and, in the case of two guards, taking naps in a conference room.

Also in 2001, a security officer was caught on surveillance video taking a bag out of a room where investigators had placed ``bait″ computer equipment to catch would-be thieves. The equipment was gone after the officer left the room.

Dennis Miyoshi, Sandia’s director of safeguards and security, said the report has been distributed to lab managers, who have been instructed to apply its recommendations.

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