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American Politics Journal

Lax Los Alamos Security Tied to 1992 Bush Adminstration Measures
Tamara Baker

Monday, June 19, 2000 -- SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA

Gentle Reader, it's happened again.

No sooner do I whip out a quick column for Ampol and send it off, than I get an e-mail with information that would have been absolutely perfect for that particular column.

Today's instance concerns the FauxGate surrounding the Los Alamos hard drives, which once were lost but now are found.

It seems, according to a June 16, 2000 article in the Alberquerque Journal by Ian Hoffman, that the penny-wise and pound-foolish budget cuts of the Bush Administration are what made the misplacing of the drives possible in the first place :

No one in the federal government had to do more than LANL did because no checkout sheets, no tracking or inventories have been required for information classified as secret since May 1992.

The reason : Too many secrets.

Defense contractors balked at the time and expense of bar-coding and tracking every classified document from creation to destruction. The Bush administration agreed and rolled back the rules.

"They said this is such an extraordinary amount of effort," explained the Federation of American Scientists' Steve Aftergood, head of the Project on Government Secrecy and a leading proponent for limiting classification to the truly valuable secrets, then protecting those well. "Given the expanding volume of secret level material, it was almost an inevitable decision."

Tracking and inventory bar codes were first dropped in February 1991 for non-nuclear weapons data that were classified secret, then in May 1992 for all data classified as secret.

Only information classified as top secret - the small amount of nuclear weapons data with the highest classification - remained bar-coded and inventoried.

I strongly suspect that, as word of this travels around, this particular FauxGate will be put out of our misery pretty darned soon.

Meanwhile, the GOP is still refusing to give Los Alamos the money it needs to do its job.

As Paul Begala has pointed out in a recent column, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson ( who, by the way, is Gore's lead pick for Vice President - which is the main reason the Republicans want to bludgeon his agency, using DriveGate as the tire iron )

asked for $65 million to improve security. The Republican Congress only gave him $11 million.

To quote Begala directly :

"It's like ordering someone to paint a fence that requires seven buckets of paint, then griping when he can't get the job done -- even though you only gave him one bucket of paint."

But this is how the Republicans deal with government in general. One of my nearest-and-dearest works for the Social Security Administration.

My N-&-D tells me that the GOP Congress has for years now been using some not-so-subtle attempts to wreck SSA, so they can keep claiming that the system is broken beyond repair -- so why don't we just turn over the Social Security trust fund to the GOP's big brokerage-firm donor buddies, eh?

This is why we need to boot the GOP out of the driver's seat this November.