DATE=6/15/2000 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=NUCLEAR SECRETS MISSING AT LOS ALAMOS NUMBER=6-11874 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 INTERNET=YES CONTENT= INTRO: For the second time in a year, important information on United States nuclear weapons is missing from one of the nation's top secret laboratories. The information, stored on two computer devices, is believed to have disappeared from the Los Alamos, New Mexico National Laboratory, around the time a huge forest fire was threatening the facility. The missing data was not reported to top government officials for several weeks. That delay has added to the outrage of congressional critics, who say the Energy Department, the agency responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear weapons, is unable to safeguard nuclear secrets. Like Congress, the nation's press is pretty upset as we hear now from _____________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup. TEXT: Less than a year ago, it was discovered that a Chinese-born U-S nuclear scientist, Wen Ho Lee, had taken highly classified data from his office computer at the Los Alamos laboratory and transferred it to his home computer. There was great concern at the time that this information might have fallen into the hands of foreign countries, but Mr. Lee steadfastly denied that. He was eventually fired from the laboratory, and arrested on charges of mishandling classified data. Now the Los Alamos laboratory is involved in another serious security breach. We begin our sampling with The Los Angeles Times. TEXT: Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's earlier assurances that security flaws at the Los Alamos National Laboratory had been fixed turn out to be not just wrong but ridiculous. The disappearance of secret nuclear data on two computer hard drives from a vault at the New Mexico weapons facility reveals continuing laxity in safeguarding highly sensitive information. ... The missing hard drives contain information about Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons, as well as weapons of American allies. The danger of this material falling into the wrong hands is obvious. TEXT: The New York Times calls the case "appalling," and spells out why the loss is so serious. VOICE: The two computer hard drives contained data used to respond to nuclear accidents or terrorist attacks. They have been missing from a secure vault at the lab since at least early May. Staff members of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team, the group responsible for managing the hard drives, became aware of their disappearance on May 7th, but there are reports that the drives were last seen for certain in early April. ... Incredibly, the lab does not even require staff members to sign a log when they remove classified material, making it hard to determine when or why or by whom material is removed. That will now have to be determined by a federal inquiry after the fact. TEXT: Ohio's [Akron] Beacon Journal sums up its displeasure this way: VOICE: The federal government has fundamental duties. One is the protection of nuclear secrets. Unfortunately, the Department of Energy can't seem to meet the task. Yes, Bill Richardson knows how to scare people. TEXT: In the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Times also targets the Energy Secretary. VOICE: Bill Richardson is taking a pounding in Congress over the latest security debacle at the Los Alamos weapons lab. Appropriately so. The department is incapable of stopping the theft and exploitation of secrets related to development, testing and maintenance of America's nuclear arsenal. ... The failures fall squarely on Los Alamos where a scientific community obviously views security as an issue for military weenies and ... spy chasers. Inventory, control and audit systems are a joke to the Ph.Ds in the lab. Taxpayers ought to be enraged. Security lapses represent genuine threats to national security. Secrets are in circulation that could do the nation harm. TEXT: The [New York] Daily News is even more critical, writing: VOICE: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that something has gone dreadfully wrong with security in the most sensitive areas of our government. Latest revelation: Staffers waited more than three weeks to report that two computer hard drives containing nuclear secrets had vanished from Los Alamos National Laboratory. ... Espionage and terrorism remain constant threats. May we never find out how lethal such incompetence can prove. TEXT: From Charleston, South Carolina, The Post and Courier laments: VOICE: Once again the Energy Department, and the Clinton administration, face a huge and troubling unknown growing out of what appears to have been a cavalier attitude toward security throughout the government. TEXT: And in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the Tribune- Review says in its headline "Heads should roll...": VOICE: And the first should be that of Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. ... [At] one time [he] had been one of the more acceptable members of the otherwise undesirable Clinton crowd. But he has performed abysmally in safeguarding our nuclear secrets. ... Bill Richardson needs to resign. /// OPT ///TEXT: The Portland [Maine] Press Herald says the "breach at [the] nuclear lab presents [a] serious threat," while today's Milwaukee [Wisconsin] Journal reminds readers this is not the first security problem. VOICE: When the Wen Ho Lee scandal broke last year, a contrite Energy Secretary Bill Richardson vowed to Congress and the nation that tougher controls would be imposed at U-S nuclear weapons labs ... Apparently, those promises contained little but the hot air that circulates over New Mexico's desert. [Mr.] Lee is the former Los Alamos scientist who was fired in March 1999 and subsequently charged with mishandling government secrets. ... On Monday ... officials disclosed that at the same lab where [Mr.] Lee worked, two computer hard drives containing detailed nuclear weapons data disappeared from a supposedly secure vault ...[were perhaps] lost or misplaced when parts of the lab were evacuated in May when a forest fire threatened. ... The F-B-I and Energy Department are trying to find the missing drives... At least as important is the need to bring to Los Alamos something it doesn't seem to have: an attitude that genuinely respects the need to protect vital information... TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of editorial comment on the latest security breach at the Los Alamos nuclear research laboratory. NEB/ANG/KL 15-Jun-2000 13:13 PM EDT (15-Jun-2000 1713 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .