Former Los Alamos Physicist Charged with Selling Nuke Info

09.20.10 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A former Los Alamos nuclear weapons scientist, Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, and his wife, Marjorie Mascheroni, were charged with conspiracy to communicate classified nuclear weapons information with the intent to injure the United States and conspiracy to develop an illict atomic bomb after they allegedly offered to provide assistance to a supposed Venezuelan nuclear weapons program.

“The conduct alleged in this indictment is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation’s nuclear secrets for profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Kris in a September 17 news release.

The underlying story is so twisted and psychologically fraught that it may never be completely clarified.  Mascheroni has been a fervent advocate of his own concept of inertial confinement fusion, while relentlessly criticizing the existing ICF program as misconceived and destined to fail.  He has tangled repeatedly with security officials over clearance and disclosure issues, but he has also found some influential supporters, including former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, who provided him with legal representation on a pro bono basis.

According to the indictment (pdf), Mascheroni only thought of selling nuclear secrets (to an FBI agent he thought was a Venezuelan official) because he became increasingly frustrated with the United States government’s unresponsiveness to his claims and concerns.  The alleged turning point, the indictment says, came in 2007, when he attempted unsuccessfully to instigate a congressional hearing on “DOE-UC mismanagement of the nuclear stockpile, weapons programs, and national security.”  A copy of his 50-page proposal to Congress, of characteristic length and turgidity, is here (pdf).

“If those guys, the American government, doesn’t give me this,” he supposedly said, referring to the desired congressional hearing, “you know, I, I, the American government is going to be my enemy really.”

“The public is reminded that an indictment contains allegations only and that every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty,” the Justice Department properly noted in its news release on the case.

A 1995 Los Alamos report “edited by Marjorie Mascheroni” on environmental contamination at Los Alamos involving high-energy explosives is available here (pdf).