Thursday, March 17, 2005

Two more employees protest CREM incident

Two more employees protest CREM incident


ROGER SNODGRASS, roger@lamonitor.com, Monitor Assistant Editor

Two more people who were disciplined in the wake of the zip drives, the ones that were not missing after all at Los Alamos National Laboratory, have spoken out, blaming management for mishandling the affair.

Along with a co-worker, John Horne, Todd Kauppila has decided to provide a public narration of the events before and after the classified material ap-peared to have vanished on July 6.

Kauppila was terminated on Sept. 23.

Horne was suspended from Dec. 20-31, after a review by a Case Review Board, despite having passed a lie-detector test on Nov. 10, the document said.

LANL spokesperson Kevin Roark said this morning that he was unable to comment on personnel actions.

"Our inquiry was exhaustive and the personnel actions were based solely on the facts that came out of those inquiries," he said.

Kauppila's statement was published Wednesday on the blog, LANL: The Real Story (lanl-the-real-story.blogspot.com/), which has attracted a rapidly growing audience of dissident readers and contributors at the laboratory.

Todd Kauppila worked in DX-3, the office from which two pieces of CREM (Classified Recordable Electronic Media) were reported missing. He related that not only was he fired without demonstrable cause, he was fired after helping to solve the mystery of how nonexistent disks were erroneously thought to be missing.

Kauppila wrote that he had been fired despite having having had only an incidental relationship with the CREM. He chaired an international conference at the lab for which the original disks had been recorded.

When he was asked to return from a vacation because of the crisis, he wrote, he discussed what he knew with his manager over a classified telephone line over the course of two days. His manager gave him permission to continue his vacation.

Later, he learned that his delay in returning "had enraged the director, who demanded that I be fired," Kauppila wrote. "It would take a few months for him to make good on his threat, but he clearly made up his mind that day, and all his actions since then point to that very plan."

Although Sen. Pete Domenici, in a visit to the laboratory on Aug. 9, already hinted at information that the disks might never have existed, several more months and a continuation of the total suspension of activities at the laboratory ensued.

On Jan. 28, the Department of Energy announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had determined that the most likely explanation for the missing disks was that a pair of barcodes had never been used.

Kauppila's statement offered an insight into the reasons for the mistake, the chaos of the recovery efforts, and how the mistake was found.

He confirmed a statement last year by a former custodian of classified matter and media at the laboratory, who said the laboratory itself was to blame for failing to support those who had responsibilities for the CREM.

Kauppila stated that there was a shortage of barcoding scanning equipment, forcing CREM handlers to read barcode numbers visually.

Additionally, he charged, CREM "were sometimes given blocks of barcode numbers to apply to generate CREM over some period of time."

Describing the search for the missing CREM, Kauppila described searches that "unfolded in a series of increasingly anxious efforts, in ever-widening circles and in all directions - up, down, and all around, canyons and ceiling tiles included."

Those engaged in the search were also under the greatest scrutiny and suspicion, Kauppila reported.

"Finally, a pattern began to develop with the periodic activity and inventory records that showed the two missing items being inventoried, but then being removed from the data base three times," he wrote.

The observed pattern turned out to be consistent with the ultimate explanation, which was that two pieces of CREM had never been bar-coded because they had not existed, nor fully accounted for in the previous inventories.

Kauppila said the theory was initially suppressed by laboratory managers.


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