JULY 20, 2007
For the second time in less than a year, classified nuclear secrets have been stolen from a U.S. government laboratory left vulnerable to serious security breaches by federal authorities.
Months after local police accidentally stumbled across classified computer disks stolen from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, a contract worker was arrested for stealing nuclear secrets from the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee.
The facility is one of the nation’s most important nuclear research labs and the Department of Energy’s largest science laboratory. It is well known for its top-secret bomb-building Manhattan Project in the 1940s and for being the first uranium enrichment facility to produce pilot-scale nuclear reactors.
Incredibly, security remains quite lax as is the case at other government labs. In this case a 67-year-old man, who worked as a janitor at Oak Ridge, tried to sell the secrets to a foreign country but the buyer turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. Investigators called the theft a serious breach of national security because the delicate information could have fallen into the hands of enemy states or terrorist organizations.
A federal indictment says the janitor stole highly classified hardware used for uranium enrichment and that the data could have been used to injure the United States and secure an advantage to a foreign nation.
Federal authorities – including the FBI, Department of Energy and Justice Department–have so far refused to comment on how a low-level contract worker with no security clearance was able to access the country’s supposedly highly guarded nuclear secrets.
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