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Nuclear security director forced to resign over lapses

Story Highlights

• Linton Brooks, National Nuclear Security Administration chief, forced to quit
• Security breach at Los Alamos laboratory a principal reason
• Brooks to depart agency within three weeks
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The head of the U.S. nuclear security agency has been forced to resign over management and security issues, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said Thursday.

Bodman said he asked for the resignation of Linton Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, because of issues including a "serious security breach" at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"The deputy secretary and I repeatedly have stressed to NNSA and laboratory management the importance of these issues being addressed, rectified and prevented in the future," said a statement issued by Bodman. "While I believe that the current NNSA management has done its best to address these concerns, I do not believe that progress in correcting these issues has been adequate."

Bodman said he decided "it is time for new leadership" at the NNSA.

"I repeatedly have told [Department of Energy] and laboratory employees, and in particular senior managers, we must be accountable to the president and the American people not just for efforts, but for results."

Brooks issued a statement to NNSA employees saying he will tender his resignation to President Bush "shortly" and depart within two to three weeks.

"One reason for forming NNSA was to prevent such management problems from occurring," Brooks said. "We have not yet done so in over five years. For much of that time I was in charge of NNSA. Therefore, the secretary believes new leadership is needed.

"This is not a decision that I would have preferred, but it was made by a thoughtful and honorable man and is based on the principle of accountability that should govern all public service," Brooks said. "I accept the decision and you need to do likewise."

On October 17 police in Los Alamos, New Mexico, found materials from the top-secret nuclear facility while searching a home during a drug raid. An Office of Inspector General report on the incident said police found a computer flash drive that "contained apparent images of classified documents from the laboratory. Also found were several hundred pages of what appeared to be laboratory documents with classified markings." (Full story)

The home belonged to a former employee of the laboratory.

"We found that the security framework relating to this incident ... was seriously flawed," the OIG said. "In a number of key areas, security policy was non-existent, applied inconsistently or not followed."

Security problems at Los Alamos first came to light in 1995, when researcher Wen Ho Lee was accused of giving nuclear warhead data to China. After a five-year investigation Lee pleaded guilty to a single count of mishandling classified information. (Full story)

In July 2004, 19 workers were placed on investigative leave after two computer disks containing classified information was thought to be missing. The security breach brought the lab to a standstill, and all employees were ordered to attend retraining sessions on facility security regulations.

Two months later four employees were fired and another resigned after it was discovered that classified electronic data had been removed from the facility.

National Nuclear Security Administration chief Linton Brooks acknowledged he had not fixed management problems at the agency.




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