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Audit: Livermore Lab’s Security Lax

June 30, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An Energy Department audit found continued weaknesses in computer security and lax safeguards against outside physical attacks at the Livermore nuclear weapons lab in California, department officials said today.

The review, conducted by a special oversight team at the direction of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, found that some sensitive information continued to be at risk, despite increased attention to security measures at the lab.

The Livermore National Laboratory is one of three nuclear weapons facilities that have been under intense scrutiny amid the uproar over alleged Chinese espionage and security lapses involving the Los Alamos lab.

The special review, conducted in late April and early May, found that at Livermore, outside foreign nationals were able to dial into the lab’s unclassified computer, and programs to monitor electronic mail had not been fully implemented, according to officials.

The review also found that the lab’s security forces did not have an adequate plan to counter potential attacks by terrorists, said the officials who spoke on the condition of not being further identified.

Reaction time for a possible attack was at times slow and not all ``pathways″ for physical access were covered, said the official.

The classified report is to be presented to a closed hearing of the House Commerce Committee Thursday.

Glenn Podonsky, who headed the investigation, said he would not characterize the security shortcomings as ``critical″ but ones that needed to be corrected. He said that lab officials began immediately to make improvements.

``I would not classify ... (the problems) as critical,″ said Podonsky in an interview. ``How serious is the vulnerability? Was nuclear material at risk? No. Was classified information at risk? No. Was there sensitive information that needed to be protected? Yes,″ he said.

``It’s serious because from our standpoint it needed to be corrected. These are holes that need to be plugged.″

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