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LANL computers stolen from Santa Fe home

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By Roger Snodgrass

The Santa Fe Police Department and Los Alamos National Laboratory confirmed Wednesday that three computers were stolen from a Santa Fe residence Friday.

Captain Gary Johnson, the public information officer for the criminal division, said there was evidence of forcible entry into the home in the 1300 block of Madrid Road, an east side Santa Fe neighborhood.

“There is nothing solid at this point,” he said, adding that there was no information about whether the computers held classified information.”

On Sunday the police reported that entry was gained to the residence through the backdoor, which was kicked in. The apparent burglary happened between 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Friday.

A lab scientist, Richard Epstein, who resides on that block, has been identified by cross-referencing the police information, as the custodian of the equipment. Epstein is a Project Leader for the Los Alamos Solid-State Optical Refrigerator program and the Focus Leader for Astrophysics at the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, according to his profile on the LANL web site. His research is focused on “theoretical aspects of neutron stars, pulsars, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, nucleosynthesis, cosmic rays and galaxy formation.

An attempt to reach Epstein this morning was unsuccessful.

Kevin Roark, a spokesperson for Los Alamos National Laboratory also confirmed the occurrence.

“The investigation into the stolen property is naturally a matter for the Santa Fe police,” he said. “We’ve confirmed that the employee followed all lab policies for having unclassified government computer equipment in the home for official use. It’s fairly common for folks to have home systems.”

He said the three computers could be explained, in that one was an old PC used as back up and to run PC applications. The other two were Macs, one of them used for travel.

The laboratory has been plagued by security incidents in recent years, although an intense security effort has virtually eliminated any reports of security breaches since a rash of incidents in 2006 and early 2007.

LANL Director Michael Anastasio reported last month that the laboratory had fulfilled a set of requirements mandated by former Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. under a formal compliance order issued in 2007. Bodman ordered the laboratory managers to undertake an elaborate accreditation process to fix longstanding deficiencies in the lab’s classified information security program.

“It’s been the managerial and technical equivalent of a tsunami, but complying with the order strengthens our security posture,” said Alyn Ford, the project leader for the initiative, quoted in a laboratory newsletter. The elaborate upgrade of systems and safeguards had a Dec. 12 deadline.

Roark said the lab was still in the very early stages of the current investigation but that it appeared to be a residential break-in.

“It will take a little time to make a determination about all the details,” he said. “At this point, we have determined that the person followed all the policies that governed having the property.”

Monitor Managing Editor Carol Clark contributed to this story.