- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Where there is smoke there's fire, so they say. And there seems to be a lot of smoke around the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory lately. So what's burning?

Unfortunately, it's U.S. national security that may be going up in smoke. The forest fire (set by federal officials as part of a "controlled burn") has long since been subdued, but Los Alamos officials now admit they cannot find two hard drives that contained a vast array of nuclear secrets. These hard drives were last seen in locked containers in a secure vault. They disappeared as the fire approached the lab in early May. No one seems to know where they are, nor who moved them.

Although the hard drives disappeared in the heat of an approaching wildfire, the trail is now getting cold. Officials realized the hard drives, each the size of a pack of cards, were missing May 7. Three days later the lab was evacuated because of the wildfire. The labs reopened May 22 and a follow-up search revealed on June 1 that the hard drives were still missing. What a surprise. They have now been missing for almost six weeks.

If the hard drives were stolen, no one seems to know who took them. Or for what purpose. The hard drives contained an array of secrets about U.S. nuclear weapons, which would make them valuable to any rogue nation. Depending on where these hard drives ended up, our biggest national security loss may turn out to be the boost these secrets could give our enemies abroad.

Congress still remains largely in the dark. News stories on the missing secrets did not surface until June 12. Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, was not aware the hard drives had been missing since early May. Rep. Tom Bliley has long suspected security was too lax. Several months ago, as chairman of the House Commerce Committee, he asked the General Accounting Office to look into whether the Department of Energy had the proper security measures in place. "The latest news from Los Alamos suggests the answer is no," he recently said in a prepared statement.

Of course, this is not the first time this administration has lost information vital to national security. The State Department has been bugged, two laptops (which also contained an array of secrets) simply disappeared and the Chinese are now in possession of some of our most sensitive nuclear secrets, which is why Wen Ho Lee is on trial. The Cox Report brought many of these problems to the evening news, but day by day officials in this administration allowed these problems to go uncorrected.

The sheer amount of information lost by the Clinton-Gore administration is astounding. Over the past three months alone, it was revealed the White House lost 246,000 e-mails that were under congressional subpoena. Vice President Gore, meanwhile, lost 18 months' worth of e-mails that could have revealed his personal campaign-finance law violations. Ken Starr was well versed in dealing with the loss of records. On his watch, he witnessed the loss and then miraculous reappearance of Hillary Clinton's Rose Law Firm records. Records pertaining to the Whitewater investigation were discovered in the trunk of an old car, which had been slated to be crushed into a cube.

President Clinton was impeached for lying under oath, yet the obstruction of justice continues. To many in the administration, the president's acquittal in the Senate is proof that misdeeds will go unpunished. Are they right? Once more, the ball is back in Congress's court as the search is on for the missing hard drives. Unfortunately, there seems to be no other way in the Clinton era.

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