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Are Nuke Labs 'Vulnerable' to Spies?

POSTED: 05:04 PM ET, 09/25/2008 by Derek Kravitz

The former chief of security for the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory in California says that staffing and intelligence-collecting problems at the facility could potentially have "catastrophic consequences," according to a letter released today before a congressional hearing on security breaches at the Department of Energy.

Terry D. Turchie, a 29-year veteran of the FBI who headed [counterintelligence] security at the Lawrence Livermore facility until last year, wrote to Rep. John D. Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The letter describes staffing problems at the facility and the "dangerously chaotic state of counterintelligence" within the Department of Energy.

"The vulnerability of DOE personnel and facilities to hostile intelligence entities has increased exponentially," wrote Turchie, who formerly was a deputy assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division. Dingell said Turchie's letter "raises a number of concerns."

[UPDATE: 2:05 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce released its own statement today, criticizing a letter from a former counterintelligence security chief that questioned restructuring at the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory in California.

"The consolidation was necessary and was mandated by Congress. The office provided and continues to provide the Secretary and other decision-makers within the Department, other government agencies, and Congress with timely technical intelligence and counterintelligence analysis on all aspects of foreign nuclear weapons, nuclear materials and energy security issues worldwide."]

The letter was released ahead of today's hearing by the energy panel's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. In it, Turchie claims that the agency's cyber-security budget has been drastically cut, resulting in vulnerabilities, and that new policies regarding the handling of classified material have not been outlined. Turchie also wrote that more than two-dozen counterintelligence officials in the department have been forced out after challenging some of the changes imposed by the department's director of intelligence and counterintelligence, Rolf Mowatt-Larsen.

A copy of Turchie's letter is available after the jump:


Download This Document (PDF) | More Documents on Scribd

Other questions about the security of the Department of Energy's nuclear labs have cropped up in recent years.

A contract employee at the department's Oak Ridge lab in Tennessee, was indicted in July 2007 on charges he stole classified information about enriching uranium and tried to peddle it to prospective buyers.

In October 2006, New Mexico police discovered 1,000 pages of secret documents and several computer storage devices that had been stolen from the Los Alamos National Laboratory by an employee.

The University of California, which used to run the Los Alamos lab, paid a settlement of almost $1 million in 2002 to a whistle-blower who was fired after documenting mismanagement, security breaches and fraud at the troubled facility. The lab's director later resigned.

By Derek Kravitz |  September 25, 2008; 5:04 PM ET Hot Documents
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Mr. Turchie was not the head or chief of security at LLNL. He was manager of LLNL's Security Awareness for Employees (SAFE) Program. A small program office within the very large Security Organization/Department at LLNL.

Posted by: Jay | September 26, 2008 12:10 PM

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