Saturday, December 10, 2005

LANL has learned nothing from the occurrences of 2004

Excerpt of a comment from the


The worst part of this is that LANL has learned nothing from the occurrences of 2004.
During a recent CREM reduction (within the last three weeks) a LANL employee received his CREM statement and found that he had five items on his statement when he actually owned only one. Not only that, but the one item that he owned wasn’t on the statement. While all of the items were eventually found the discrepancy proves that LANL still does not effectively track and account for CREM. This is the same type of database error that led to the catastrophe of 2004. With only a minor change in fortune this person could have become the focus of a witch-hunt similar to that which we faced in July of 2004. Nothing has really changed.

LANL has been struggling with control of classified media since 2000, when the balloon went up over the "hard drives". Rather than deal with the very real problems shown up by that incident, they went into a "damage control" mode. Been there ever since. Cover up and denial do not lead to change.
I think the root cause of this problem occurred in the early 90's when Hazel O'leary removed the accountability requirements for classified material. It just took a while for the problems to surface.
John has nailed this one on the head. CREM problems were inevitable after Hazel did away with accountability for classified.
Bar-code level accountability is NOT required of Secret level documents in
the intelligence community, nor within DOD, nor within the Justice Dept.,
nor within almost all other sensitive document handling departments that
operate throughout the US government.

Our problems were not caused by Hazel. Many things that happened during her
tenure were mis-guided, but removing bar-code level accountability from
Secret RD materials was not one of them. In fact, it's DOE's overly strict
accountability requirements for Secret RD material that is the source of the
problem. It is a level of accountability that is almost unique within
the US government. Some how, this simple fact seems to never get out to a
wider audience. We are held to a "platinum standard" that is almost unique
within the US government, and, frankly, I'm surprised we've handle the
situation as well as we do!

Secret level documents are the working material of the classified world.
Lots of them are produced, and they are handled by thousands of people.
DOE's decision to enforce strict accountability on this large source of
material virtually guarantees that problems will be seen. In fact, I have
no doubt that additional problems with Secret RD materials will likely
emerge in the future at some DOE facility. The volumes of Secret RD
materials generated within the complex along with statistical odds favor
further incidences. And, as before, when it happens, DOE will likely
indulge in hyper-aggressive "shut-it-down" attitudes towards contractors
involved in the incident. This is what makes working with Secret RD
material at a DOE lab a "high-wire" act for the laboratory staff. If DOE
really believes that Secret RD material is extra sensitive, then they should
designate it as Top Secret and pay for the necessary facilities to handle
large volumes of Top Secret material on a daily basis. Alas, DOE is too
cheap to follow this route. Instead, they find it far easier to simply
keep the current system in place and then beat up on contractors when
issues with the handling of Secret RD materials occur.

A solution around this problem is clear. It involves network upgrades.
A drastic increase in the size and scope of the current LANL RedNet
should have occurred so that no one EVER has to create a paper document or
vu-graphs or removable magnetic media at the Secret RD level. It can
all be handled on-line. Why hasn't this expansion occurred? DOE gave
LANL $20 million to expand the RedNet last year, but I've seen very
little evidence that the RedNet was expanded. I suspect most of this
extra funding was simply wasted by our management, and that is a real
shame. Likewise, the extra $20 million that LANL will get this year
for RedNet expansion will also see the same result. This is especially
distressing when one realizes that the reason we are going through
the current RFP mess is because of several incidences that involved
improper handling of Secret RD media. Hopefully, the next crew that
manages LANL will do a much better job at building out and managing our
classified networks. We had better hope so, as the future of the lab
could well depend on it.
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