The Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory in New Mexico is missing 67 computers, including 13 that were lost or stolen in the past year. Officials say no classified information has been lost.
The watchdog group Project on Government Oversight on Wednesday released a memo dated Feb. 3 from the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration outlining the loss of the computers.
Kevin Roark, a spokesman for Los Alamos, on Wednesday confirmed the computers were missing and said the lab was initiating a monthlong inventory to account for every computer. He said the computers were a cybersecurity issue because they may contain personal information like names and addresses, but they did not contain any classified information.
Thirteen of the missing computers were lost or stolen in the past 12 months, including three computers that were taken from a scientist's home in Santa Fe, N.M., on Jan. 16, and a Blackberry belonging to another employee was lost "in a sensitive foreign country," according to the memo and an e-mail from a senior lab manager.
The e-mail was also released by the watchdog group.
The theft of the three computers in January triggered the inventory and a review of the lab's policies regarding home use of government computers, Roark said.
Only one of the three computers stolen from the employee's home was authorized for home use, which raised concerns "as to whether we were fully complying with our own policies for offsite computer usage," he said.
Roark said computers with classified information are "kept completely separate from unclassified computing."
"None of these systems constitute a breach of a classified system," he said.
The e-mail from Los Alamos senior manager Stephen Blair to lab co-workers said the missing computers and Blackberry were "garnering a great deal of attention with senior management as well as (nuclear security administration) representatives."
The security administration memo said the "magnitude of exposure and risk to the laboratory is at best unclear as little data on these losses has been collected or pursued given their treatment as property management issues."
The Los Alamos laboratory, one of the government's most prestigious research facilities where the first nuclear bomb was developed in the 1940s, has been plagued by security problems in the past decade.
In 2007, the Energy Department fined managers of the lab $3.3 million because of a security breakdown in which classified documents were found in a trailer-park drug raid.
n 2004, the lab was essentially shut down after an inventory showed that two computer disks containing nuclear secrets were missing. A year later the lab concluded that it was just a mistake and the disks never existed.
But the most notable case is that of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee. After years of espionage accusations and imprisonment, Lee pleaded guilty in 2000 to one count of mishandling nuclear secrets at the lab and was released with an apology.
The lab, located in Los Alamos, N.M., employs about 10,000 people.