Plot Thickens in Livermore Spying Incident. (Insight Exclusive)

By Andersen, Martin Edwin; Rodriguez, Paul M. | Insight on the News, April 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Plot Thickens in Livermore Spying Incident. (Insight Exclusive)


Andersen, Martin Edwin, Rodriguez, Paul M., Insight on the News


Despite Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's artful denial of a recent INSIGHT exclusive (see "U.S. Nuclear Security May Be Compromised," April 1-8), security watchdogs in Congress have announced their intention to pursue the allegation. Meanwhile, several counterintelligence and sworn law-enforcement officials in Washington and at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California have hotly contested Abraham's response.

INSIGHT also has uncovered serious contradictions in official responses about a suspected espionage incident last summer given by LLNL spokespeople and a nearby police agency responsible for uncovering the security breach.

As new information surfaced last week suggesting that the FBI may be expanding the scope of its previously reported probe into a possible penetration by Pakistan's intelligence services of a highly-classified archive of nuclear-weapons secrets housed at LLNL, Abraham told Congress that he knew of no such investigation.

On March 13, Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) took advantage of Abraham's appearance before a House Armed Services Committee hearing to ask him whether any kind of investigation was being conducted by the FBI at LLNL. The laboratory, working on contract with the Department of Energy (DOE), is one of a handful of facilities around the country that conducts advanced research on nuclear-weapons development. In its earlier story, INSIGHT cited DOE sources as saying that Abraham was stunned to learn of the security breaches, particularly those involving the Nuclear Weapon Information Program (NWIP), believed to be the world's single most important repository of knowledge about the U.S. nuclear arsenal and its capabilities, weaknesses, developments, strategies and new technologies.

At the hearing Abraham denied knowing about any ongoing investigation into the alleged security breaches. After the hearing Weldon told INSTANT: "I plan on pursuing these allegations and getting to the bottom of them. Security at our national labs is too critical to let lapses such as these occur." Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) issued a statement saying, "If true, [these allegations] paint a very disturbing picture of security at Livermore." Meanwhile, INSIGHT has learned more details about the ongoing probe at LLNL concerning suspected breaches of personnel computer systems and nuclear-secrets databases. Initial reports fingered a Pakistani as the prime suspect, but the probe may be looking at others as well. Washington sources inside DOE tell INSIGHT a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant has been sought and that the FBI is spearheading a hush-hush probe along with lab-security personnel at Livermore. …

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