Computers Go Missing From Lab

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Oversight groups expressed alarm after a report revealed that more than 60 computers and computer peripherals have gone missing from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the past year.

The New Mexico lab is managed in part by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy, and does research in areas including nuclear weaponry and national security.

According to a Feb. 3 memorandum released by the Project on Government Oversight, an independent organization, 67 computers are missing from the lab.

However, lab spokesperson Kevin Roark said 80 computers and computer equipment, such as printers and scanners, had gone missing in 2008. After 11 of the 80 were recovered, the total number of missing electronics came to 69.

Roark said none of the missing computers contained classified information, and were used for tasks ranging from word processing to data calculations.

However, the memo released by the oversight organization from the Department of Energy stated that potential security risks were unknown.

"The magnitude of exposure and risk to the laboratory is at best unclear as little data on these losses has been collected or pursued," the memo stated.

Roark said 13 of the computers were stolen, but the remainder were not missing as the result of criminal activity.

"Much of it we believe is inventory discrepancy, meaning a computer was tagged for salvage but didn't get registered for salvage, or it was transferred from one person to another and dropped off an inventory list," he said.

The lab has come under question before for its security breaches, including an incident in 2006 involving the mishandling of classified documents.

Jay Coghlan, the executive director of Nuke Watch of New Mexico, said he felt the lab needs to take more steps to secure its computers and equipment. He added that the best way to accomplish this might be cuts in funding to the lab until security improves.

"There's a perennial problem," he said. "There must be clear rules on computers that leave laboratory areas."

Katie Meyer of The Daily

Californian contributed to this report.


Valerie Woolard is the assistant university news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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