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Classified data missing from US nuke lab
Updated: 2004-07-11 09:38

The US nuclear weapons research lab Los Alamos National Laboratory has lost two computer disks containing classified information, the third such incident in eight months, media reports said Saturday.

Director Peter Nanos said in a statement Friday that the loss had "once again ... brought disrepute to Los Alamos," the Los Angeles Times reported.

A lab spokesman said the "Classified Removable Electronic Media" were discovered missing from the Weapons Physics Directorate where scientists conduct research related to nuclear weapons during an inventory check Wednesday. The items could be products such as CDs or floppy disks.

Nanos has ordered operations in the affected section of the lab halted while a search for the missing items was conducted.

The lab has restricted the access of some employees, requiring them to enter the area under escort. The affected employees are those who had access to the missing items.

Nanos refused to say if the information could jeopardize national security. But unlike the two previous incidents in May and last December, he did not say that the missing materials posed no threat to national security, instead describing the loss as "very serious."

The announcement of the missing disks marks another security breach and another embarrassment for the University of California (UC), which manages Los Alamos for the federal government, the Times said.

Earlier allegations of fraud, security lapses and mismanagementat the lab prompted the Energy Department to announce last year that it would require UC, for the first time, to compete for the contract to run Los Alamos.

The US Congress later ordered that other national lab contracts,including one for a second UC-run facility, Lawrence Livermore in California, be put up for bid.

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