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The BBC's Russell Trott
"In the wrong hands could have a devastating effect on US national security"
 real 28k

Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 01:41 GMT 02:41 UK
Nuclear hard drives found
Los Alamos
The laboratory was heavily guarded during the blaze
Two computer hard drives containing nuclear secrets which went missing at the US nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos have turned up on site.

The lost files, which had already sparked a massive security alert, were found at the Laboratory, the Energy Department said.

But it is still unclear whether they were tampered with or taken off the site.
Missing hard drives
7 April - last seen
4 May - fire threatens laboratory
7 May - discovered missing but not reported
2 June - FBI alerted
12 June - announced missing
14 June - employees suspended
16 June - hard drives found

"The hard drives missing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have been located," a statement said.

It added that the area where they were found was being treated like a crime scene.

The drives, which contained highly sensitive technical information on nuclear weapons design, including on US, Russian, Chinese and French systems, were found behind a copying machine in the secure area in which they had gone missing.

The hard drives had been kept in vaults and the information on them was to be used for disarming nuclear devices.

Investigation

The files went missing in early May - they could not be found after a fire caused major damage at the site.

This was despite the fact that the vaults they were placed in were found fully intact.

fire
A forest fire in the area got out of control

The FBI is now looking at the hard drives and "an intensive investigation" is continuing to find out how they were apparently lost.

Agents have already said they are suspicious about the circumstances in which the hard drives turned up.

Six employees from the nuclear centre have already been suspended while FBI conduct lie detector tests.

It has emerged that 28 people at Los Alamos had free access to the vault where the hard drives were stored and did not have to sign material out.

Security history

Los Alamos was the focus of a year-long controversy in 1999 over alleged security lapses involving a former lab scientist, who has been charged with illegally copying highly classified files and is awaiting trial.

Officials are said to believe there is no link between the charges against him and the disappearance of the hard drives.

The BBC's Nick Bryant says the whole situation has been a massive embarrassment to the Clinton adminstration.

One Congressman said there was more security at his local library than at the Los Alamos site.

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See also:

13 Jun 00 | Americas
FBI joins nuclear secrets hunt
09 May 00 | Americas
Forest fire shuts nuclear lab
14 May 00 | Americas
Historic atomic site destroyed
13 May 00 | Americas
Fires spread in US
11 May 00 | Americas
Los Alamos evacuated
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