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Documents track lab's security record

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By Roger Snodgrass

A principal nemesis of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), released electronic copies of a series of slide presentations made by lab managers on Sept. 17 to the Department of Energy.The unclassified slides were marked “official use only” and “May be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act.”Of special interest in POGO’s revelation Tuesday were a pair of slides on security incidents at the laboratory from June 2006 through June 2007, which counted 13 top-level security breaches during that period.The text of the slide indicated that seven of the 13 incidents involved people who checked their own work for classification.“POGO is once again making an assertion that is at best inaccurate and at worst misleading,” said LANL spokesperson Kevin Roark. “They characterize this one data point as a debacle, which it isn’t.”He said the lab’s track record graphed on another slide showed that the numbers are trending better.“They showed security improvement, particularly if you go back to ‘04 and ‘05,” he said. “There is a marked improvement over ‘06.”POGO’s press release highlighted one of the bullet points in the presentation:“These incidents cause doubt in our ability to protect national secrets, potentially cost millions in fines, and bring in additional external oversight (35 external audits and reviews for physical security since June 2006),” the slide stated.“They took that line and interpret it in the worst possible way,” Roark said.He said what the presenter meant was that the most important thing is preventing the incidents, which in turn reduces the doubts of overseers and regulators in your ability to do it.“We don’t want people to think all we care about is what people think of us,” he added. “What we really care about is preventing these incidents.”An update for July and August, indicated that there were “34 Security Incidents and 102 Sub-Reportable Events.” A partial breakdown down was given, as follows:• 43 Improperly Secured Items• 32 Incidents (of) Portable Electronic Devices in security areas• 19 Potential Unauthorized Disclosures (Majority e-mail related)Roark said that while the trends are good, “We want to be at zero.”He said the 12-month average had dropped from 1.83 top-level security incidents a month in November 2006, to .58 incidents in November 2007.POGO also got in a jab about a slide titled “Security Improvements,” which shows a guard in a checkpoint giving “standard” stop and go signals.“Can you believe one of the new security measures touted in the presentation was the use of stop and go hand signals for guards posted at vehicle entrances?” Danielle Brian Executive Director of POGO in the press release. “It hurts too much to laugh.”