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Lab worker fired after writing anti-nuclear piece

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Testimony > LANL chief sees some improvement in NNSA relations

By The Staff

A former member of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s non-proliferation team says he was fired after writing an article for a nonprofit website in support of abolishing nuclear weapons.
James Doyle, who lives in Santa Fe, said he believes he was let go after 17 years because lab officials feared the article, which espoused his personal views, could be interpreted as a voice from the laboratory and could present problems in seeking funding for Los Alamos’s nuclear bomb building mission.
A Los Alamos spokesman said the lab doesn’t discuss personnel matters.
Doyle said he was fired July 8, several months after lab officials claimed his article raised classification concerns. He says the article had been cleared for publication by the proper officials before it was published.
Doyle’s attorney Mark Zaid said he believes there was clear retaliation, and he is pursuing administrative remedies for his client.
The Center for Public Integrity initially broke the story.
In its story, a number of former advisers were quoted.
“It sure looks like he’s being fired for supporting the president’s policy,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a special adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden.
“Nobody would go after this article on classification grounds unless they were pursuing a political agenda and it is amazing to attack someone politically for writing an article in support of a policy of the president of the United States,” said Matthew Bunn, a former White House official under President Bill Clinton.
“The classification system, of course, is not supposed to be used for political purposes,” Bunn said. “It is only to prohibit the release of information if it would damage the security of the U.S. And there’s nothing in this article that could in any way damage the security of the United States.”
Doyle’s conclusion was the following as quoted by the Center of Public Integrity piece.
“Eliminating nuclear weapons is profoundly in the [U.S.] national-security interest,” Doyle said. Though it hardly appears to have been necessary, a note appended to the printed article said its views “are the author’s own and do not represent those of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
Watchdog groups have long lauded Doyle’s work.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico claims that any quick reading shows it has no information whatsoever about nuclear weapons designs and materials that would merit classification. The study is instead a 28-page narrative argument by a nationally recognized nonproliferation expert for eliminating the stockpile, while citing the aspirations of both Presidents Reagan and Obama to abolish nuclear weapons.
The watchdog group said that LANL didn’t like Doyle’s message, and sought to kill it through classification.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, said, “The Los Alamos lab has been in the news a lot lately for sending a barrel of plutonium-contaminated waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant that ruptured and shut down that multi-billion facility for an undetermined period of time.
“Less well known is the fact that LANL’s main plutonium facility has not conducted major operations for more than a year because of nuclear criticality issues. Now comes a clear political firing and abuse of classification procedures. Why are we paying tens of millions in profits to the private contractors running LANL? We demand that federal overseers intervene, reprimand the lab, reinstate James Doyle, fire those responsible for his political firing,”
Los Alamos Study Group’s Greg Mello also weighed in.
“Doyle’s dismissal appears to be the natural consequence of intellectual, professional, or personal maturation. Either his views, or his courage, evolved to the point where he has became incompatible with the little people at LANL. It’s happened many times before,” he said.
The Center of Public Integrity story can be found here: publicintegrity.org/2014/07/31/15161/nuclear-weapons-lab-employee-fired-after-publishing-scathing-critique-arms-race.