What in the world happened at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico?
If it were not so serious the conflicting stories about missing computer hard drives with secret data would be mindful of a bunch of schoolboys caught with liquor in the rec room. The first lesson would-be rule-breakers should learn is to get their stories straight.
The situation is serious however. The hard drives, which have now been found, contain sensitive information on how nuclear weapons belonging to the U.S. as well as to other nations are designed.
There were lapses in the reporting of the missing hard drives. There were conflicting reports from government officials regarding when the hard drives were last seen.
The FBI and the CIA, as well as a grand jury, are all involved in the investigation now. One theory, and we pray it holds true, is that a Nuclear Emergency Search Team official misplaced the drives last March, panicked when the loss became public, and arranged for them to be found last week by a photocopier.
There's no telling precisely who is to blame for this security fiasco until investigators finish unraveling the various stories. One point is certain, however, if no one is found accountable these security lapses will continue.
It's unfathomable that this security snafu occurred on the heels of the indictment of a Los Alamos engineer for allegedly copying nuclear secrets into an insecure computer network. The engineer has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The State Department has had its share of security breaches with a computer laptop containing sensitive information being stolen from a State Department office. Administration officials pledge to tighten security each time a transgression is revealed and yet similar security breakdowns always seem to follow.
Maybe there has been a general loosening of security sense the end of the Cold War. If so, that's an attitude that will only get the U.S. into trouble. Rogue nations and terrorists are every bit as dangerous as Russia and Red China were in their prime.
It's time for a thorough assessment of security measures in all sensitive areas of government. If reasonable precautions are not taken now to safeguard legitimate secrets we'll regret it soon.
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