- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The FBI is focusing on a subcontractor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as the possible source of classified information from the nuclear-weapons facility discovered during the arrest of a New Mexico man on drug charges.

Federal authorities said yesterday that the subcontractor, Jessica Quintana, was questioned after Los Alamos police discovered the classified data during a search for evidence of a drug business after the arrest of Justin Stone, 20, Friday.

Miss Quintana, who authorities said shared the mobile home with Mr. Stone, has not been charged in the case.

“This appears to be a new low: Even drug dealers can get classified information out of Los Alamos,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, a watchdog that has exposed seven incidents involving the mishandling or loss of classified information at nuclear-weapons facilities since 2002.

Authorities said the Los Alamos information was located on a computer flash drive, a portable flash memory card that plugs into a computer’s Universal Serial Bus, or USB, port and functions as a hard drive. Flash drives have been banned from the Los Alamos laboratory for the past two years.

Linton F. Brooks, chief of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said yesterday that “extraordinary efforts” have been made in the past three years to put strong security procedures in place at Los Alamos and other national laboratories to ensure that sensitive information is not compromised.

“Our job now is to assess what happened at Los Alamos, to determine whether procedures have been diligently observed, and to decide whether additional steps need to be taken,” he said, adding that the agency’s chief of defense nuclear security will “personally investigate the facts at Los Alamos.”

Los Alamos Police Department Sgt. Chuck Ney said the classified information was located Friday at a trailer park in the city after officers responded to a domestic disturbance call. Police also found hazardous methamphetamine lab components.

Police then notified the FBI, and federal authorities began a separate investigation.

FBI Special Agent Bill Elwell in Albuquerque said a now-sealed search warrant was served in the case by agents, but he declined to discuss details of the ongoing investigation. He said the U.S. attorney’s office in Albuquerque is “evaluating the information.”

Los Alamos has a long history of security breaches. In December 1999, Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-American scientist who worked at the laboratory, was accused of stealing secrets on the U.S. nuclear arsenal for China. After investigators dropped a 59-count complaint, Mr. Lee pleaded guilty to improper handling of restricted data.

In June, the government and five news organizations — The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, ABC News and the Associated Press — announced a $1.6 million settlement with Mr. Lee over accusations that government leaks violated his privacy.

In 2004, Los Alamos was shut down after an inventory found that two computer disks with nuclear secrets were missing. A year later, the lab concluded the disks never existed.

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