- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2000

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said yesterday the disappearance of computer hard drives containing highly classified nuclear weapons data should be blamed on the University of California and the "human element."
Mr. Richardson said on NBC's "Meet the Press" "it's very clear" in the contract the University of California has with the Department of Energy that "they're in charge of security" at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
But the "human element" has prevented the implementation of an adequate security system at the lab, he said.
"I have to keep a balance between science and security. Security is a priority, but at the same time a lot of important scientific research has to take place and, you know, right now, I don't seem to win," he told ABC's "This Week."
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said Mr. Richardson should resign because he alone bears the blame since he fought the creation of a new agency to oversee nuclear security.
"He chose to assume the full responsibility, to reject putting someone else in charge, to fight the creation of this new semiautonomous agency, and he said, 'Until we have a new undersecretary, I am the one in charge, and I accept full responsibility.'
"Having done that, accepting full responsibility is not blaming others, as you heard him do today. It is understanding that he was the one, by his own choice, who chose to accept it, and therefore he has to bear the consequences, and I believe he ought to step down," Mr. Kyl said on NBC.
Mr. Richardson said on ABC's "This Week" that the contract with the University of California will be "re-evaluated" to determine if it is "providing adequate security at the labs." Asked if the contract might be in jeopardy, Mr. Richardson said, "You know, they're vulnerable… ."
Reminded that he assured Americans more than a year ago that "their nuclear secrets are now safe at the labs," following reports of Chinese espionage, Mr. Richardson said on NBC, "I have put more security than any secretary, I have devoted an enormous amount of time. We have massively upgraded security."
Mr. Richardson said what he "didn't take into account" when he made that pledge was "that the lab culture needs more time to be changed. I didn't take into account the human element."
The secretary said he didn't foresee the degree of resistance to extra security he has encountered from scientists at the lab.
Mr. Richardson said he found it "incomprehensible" that there were no procedures for logging people into and out of the vault where two highly classified hard drives disappeared.
The drives mysteriously reappeared Friday behind a copying machine in the X division, which is the name given to the lab's most sensitive area.
"What I think has happened here is that the FBI is focusing on a few individuals in the X division that made contradictory statements about where the drives were. There's a criminal investigation going on, and what entirely could be the case is that one of these individuals misplaced the drives, and what we now have is a potential cover-up or some other factors that have to be determined and that explains the whereabouts of these disks," Mr. Richardson told NBC.
"I believe there's been no espionage. It doesn't appear [the drives] left the X division," he said.
But others aren't so sure. Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC, "There is no evidence that there is not espionage, and that's what concerns us very greatly."
Key senators such as Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mr. Kyl of Arizona, a member of that panel, said Mr. Richardson's efforts to strengthen security at the nuclear weapons labs obviously have not been enough.
Mr. Shelby told "Fox News Sunday" that security breaches at federal agencies have grown into a "big malignancy that has spread anywhere in this administration."
"It's not just the labs. Look at the CIA: John Deutsch, the former director, thousands of pages [of secret information] put on an unclassified computer [at his home]. The State Department breached, not once, not twice. I think it's a culture. The American people deserve better," Mr. Shelby said.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott echoed that sentiment on ABC.
"It's bigger than Bill Richardson. There's a laxity in this administration about security," said the Mississippi Republican.
Mr. Kyl and Mr. Shelby both said they believe Mr. Richardson should step down. But the energy secretary said he does not plan to walk away from the current turmoil. He said President Clinton has offered him his full support both publicly and privately.
In appearances on two talk shows yesterday, Edward Curran, director of counterintelligence for the Department of Energy, confirmed Mr. Richardson's claim that many scientists have resisted his efforts to bolster security. On CNN's "Late Edition," Mr. Curran said he recommended that workers in the lab's X division "our most critical program" be polygraphed.
"But over half the people in the X division signed petitions opposed to the polygraph," he said.
Mr. Shelby said he expects Mr. Richardson to be at a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee meeting scheduled tomorrow to discuss the Los Alamos security situation.
Mr. Richardson failed to appear for such a meeting last week. He said yesterday he was not prepared at that time. "I now have the information… . I'm willing to testify before any Senate or House committee," he said on NBC.
He stressed that he has "an obligation" to appear at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week. That takes priority, he said, because that committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy.

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