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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LOS ALAMOS NUCLEAR LAB SUICIDE, SPIES, INVESTIGATIONS


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A SUSPICIOUS 'SUICIDE', FRAUD, CORRUPTION, ABUSE OF POWER, GROSS MISMANAGEMENT, BLOCKING INVESTIGATIONS, EVEN CHARGES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST THE  LAB'S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR...THE LIST GROWS OF UNINVESTIGATED, DEEP-ROOTED PROBLEMS AT LANL (Los Alamos Nuclear Lab) THAT SPAN DECADES.

Feb. 2, 2016
On this date, three nuclear whistleblowers sent a certified letter to New Mexico's district U.S. Attorney General Damon Martinez [3-page letter can be viewed <HERE><HERE> and <HERE>.] asking him to reopen blocked and closed investigations into serious wrong-doings at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory.

They specifically asked that the 2002 death of the lab's former deputy director of operations, Richard Burick, whose death was ruled a suicide BEFORE autopsy, be re-examined. 

The trio seem to suggest that the suicide was not a suicide at all. 

All three whistleblowers are respected, well-known men, with one (Glen Walp) being a former Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner, one being a former police chief (Steve Doran), and the third, Chuck
Montaño, being a multi-credentialed auditor and investigator who worked at LANL for 32 years.  
Montaño became a federally protected whistleblower after reporting accounting malpractice and abuses that he had witnessed for years at LANL, and for which Lab management retaliated against him.  

 In the same period of time as Burick's claimed suicide, the criminal investigation of major procurement fraud at LANL was derailed by the Lab's hasty firing of Walp and Doran.
This, in turn, prevented a congressional committee from learning the full scope of potential criminal activity. 

Since then, new information has emerged  that possibly links the corruption to Burick's suicide, which the three whistleblowers assert deserves serious investigation by federal law enforcement.

IN A PDF DOCUMENT PROVIDED BY NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO WE READ:
"Federally protected whistleblower Chuck Montaño added,

“The Los Alamos Lab is a cash cow for the military-industrial
complex, and because politicians are so beholden to these
corporations, there's zero accountability for the fraud, waste
and abuse that keeps occurring in Los Alamos. 
We are seeking to end that by asking the US Attorney for
New Mexico to intervene and go wherever the facts may take him."


THIS IS BY NO MEANS A FIRST FOR LANL, OR FOR OTHERS WHICH CONGRESS HAS LONG REFUSED TO HOLD ACCOUNTABLE FOR NUMEROUS SAFETY FAILURES AND CORRUPTION CHARGES.

'JUDICIAL WATCH' REPORTED IN 2012 THAT VIOLATIONS AT OAK RIDGE WERE REPORTED 12 YEARS AGO WHEN A PRIVATE SECURITY FIRM TRIED TO INTEREST CONGRESS IN A THOROUGH INVESTIGATION OF THAT FACILITY.
AFTER 16 YEARS, CONGRESS STILL SLEEPS.

"The government refers to the Y-12 National Security Complex as the “Fort Knox of Uranium” and claims it has the “most stringent security in the world”, but the reality is much different. The facility’s security is actually a joke, a very expensive joke.
Security lapses at nuclear weapons facilities have long been an embarrassing problem for the U.S. government.

A few years ago Judicial Watch reported that security was compromised at the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. Under a special government program thousands of foreign nationals from communist and Middle Eastern countries were granted “unaccompanied access” to the facility and weren’t properly vetted through “counterintelligence consultations.” 


The security violations, documented in a federal audit, were committed by nationals from China, Pakistan and Egypt, among other countries.

SPIES AT LOS ALAMOS

Shortly before that breach became public, two employees at a separate federally-owned nuclear lab pleaded guilty to criminal charges for passing classified weapons data to a foreign government that’s hostile to the U.S. 

The scheme took place at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which has a long and sordid history of grave security violations that date back to the late 90s. 

In 1999 a Chinese communist scientist (Wen Ho Lee) stole nuclear secrets from the facility but was not prosecuted by the Clinton Justice Department because then Attorney General Janet Reno claimed the accusations were racist. 

Judicial Watch represented the whistleblower, Notra Trulock, responsible for launching an investigation into Lee’s actions. 

Trulok was the Energy Department’s intelligence operations chief and Clinton administration officials defamed him by accusing him of being a racist in order to cover up Lee’s repeated security violations.
HOW THE LATEST CALL FOR INVESTIGATION CAME ABOUT...
FEB. 15, 2016SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN

"One of the highest-ranking officials at the Los Alamos National Lab abruptly announced his resignation from the lab this week, following more than 15 years of employment with the institution.



Richard “Rich” Marquez, executive director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, informed lab Director Charles McMillan that he would be leaving the lab, effective immediately, according to an internal memo sent by McMillan to lab employees dated Feb. 11 and obtained by the New Mexican.


The reason for his sudden resignation from a job that paid $492,000 a year is unknown. Marquez did not respond to several requests for comment on Thursday and lab officials declined comment. 

The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Safety Administration did not return emails seeking comment.

Last August Marquez was charged with four offenses in a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend.
The charges included battery against a household member, false imprisonment, interference with communication and larceny under $500.

 Marquez denied the charges and they were dismissed a few weeks later when ...the woman told the police she did not want to file a report “because her boyfriend was ‘well connected’ and she did not want to get him into trouble.”

The woman’s and Marquez’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. It’s unknown whether the incident played any role in Marquez’s decision to leave the lab.

Craig Leasure, principal associate director for operations and business, has stepped in as interim executive director.

SAFETY VIOLATIONS, FRAUD, MISSING FUNDS

Marquez’s resignation comes at a turbulent time for the lab. On Dec. 18, the National Nuclear Safety Administration, a subsection of the Department of Energy, announced the lab’s $2.2 billion annual contract would not be renewed when it expires in September 2017 and would instead be put up for bid.

The decision not to renew the contract was based on a slew of safety violations, the most notable related to an improperly packaged drum of nuclear waste, which burst and contaminated areas of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant with radiation. The safety violation forced the plant to close indefinitely and resulted in a $74 million settlement between the lab, WIPP and the New Mexico Environment Department for violating the state’s permit.

The lab is currently run by a consortium led by the University of California and Bechtel Corporation.

Marquez’s tenure had survived other problems at the lab, including the discovery of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases under the guise of purchasing lab equipment that occurred while he was in charge of procurement and property management.

Though Marquez was not implicated in the schemes, some lab employees testifying in front of a congressional oversight committee blamed him and other lab officials for failings that allowed the fraud to happen and of trying to obstruct an investigation into it. As a result of that scandal, Director John Browne and Principle Deputy Director Joseph Salgado resigned, and 16 other high ranking employees were dismissed or transferred. 

Two other employees were arrested and served timed in prison.

The workers hired to investigate the fraud, Steven Doran and Glenn Walp, were fired abruptly in 2002, and publicly called their termination an effort to “cover-up” wrongdoings at the lab. An investigation later found they were wrongfully terminated.

On Feb. 1, Doran, Walp and Chuck Montaño  , an author and former auditor for the lab, filed a request to U.S. Attorney for New Mexico Damon Martinez requesting the investigation be reopened. The parties also sought for Martinez to investigate the apparent suicide of Richard Bruick, former deputy director of operations, who was found dead from a self-inflicted gun shot a year following his retirement in 2002, a death they believe to be suspect.

A spokesperson for Martinez said his office would not comment on whether the request was being considered.

Both Montaño and Walp said Thursday that should an investigation be reopened, Marquez would be “at the top of [the] list” for questioning.

“Mr. Marquez knows where all the bodies are buried,” Walp said.

The Project On Government Oversight has launched its updated Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD), which catalogues penalties, warnings, and other oversight actions between the government and its contractors.

This data offers unprecedented insights into the history of waste, fraud, and abuse by federal contractors, including those that manage and operate the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.


This complex encompasses the military research, testing, and production facilities that sustain America’s nuclear arsenal. It is managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy (DOE). NNSA’s mission is expansive, expensive, and scientifically demanding. 



The largest single penalty against the weapons labs came in 2015 when DOE cut Los Alamos’ award fee by 90 percent—$57 million—for a radiological incident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

In February 2014, staff at the Los Alamos lab incorrectly packed nuclear waste for storage, at WIPP, WIPP did not catch the error, and these two safety failures led to an explosion, fire, and radiation leak at WIPP.
The plant has not reopened.
The plant is known to still have leakage problems."

BACK IN 2014, JUDICIAL WATCH TRIED AGAIN TO INTEREST CONGRESS IN ADDRESSING THE FAILURE OF SECURITY AND FAILURE OF NNSA TO SECURE STOCKPILES FROM TERRORIST THREATS AT OUR NUKE FACILITIES...CONGRESS WASN'T INTERESTED.


"The government agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), responsible for securing the nation’s nuclear weapons—and the facilities where they are housed—has failed miserably.

This is obviously detrimental to national security and affects everyone who lives in this country.


The scary part is that the negligence is nothing new, but rather it’s been going on for decades, according to the federal audit that exposed the crisis recently.

It was conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General and it tells a frightening tale of how vulnerable we really are as a nation.

The NNSA is responsible for maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent through the application of science, technology, engineering and manufacturing processes.

But it isn’t properly done and the inspector general confirms this has been going on for years while authorities stood by.

Problems occurred in the control of nuclear weapons [Configuration Management] because, over the decades of nuclear weapons development, neither NNSA nor its sites treated the maintenance of original nuclear weapons CM information as a priority,” the audit says.

The operational problems are so severe that the reliability and safety of U.S. nuclear weapons has been negatively impacted, the report further states.

The crisis is especially bad at the premier nuclear weapons laboratories that are overseen by NNSA because the agency has taken “a management approach that was more reactive than pro-active” in the handling and maintenance of nuclear weapons and their components, according to the DOE watchdog."


AND THAT IS MERELY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.

THE DEADLIEST MATERIAL ON EARTH IS APPARENTLY BEING HANDLED BY WHAT MAY BE THE BIGGEST CROOKS IN AMERICA.

WE HAVE ENTRUSTED SUCH AS THESE TO MAINTAIN THE SECURITY OF MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL.

WE SHOULD CERTAINLY RETHINK WHO OVERSEES OUR NUCLEAR FACILITIES, ALL OF THEM, IN THE U.S.

IF WE DON'T DO SO, IF WE FAIL TO DEMAND THE INTEGRITY OF THOSE IN CHARGE OF SAFEGUARDING US ALL, AND DEMAND OF CONGRESS THE GUARANTEE OF ABSOLUTELY FLAWLESS OVERSIGHT FOR THESE FACILITIES, WHEN A FATAL MISTAKE IS MADE, WHEN, NOT IF, WE WILL HAVE OURSELVES TO BLAME FOR NOT DEMANDING THESE THINGS.

WE STILL HAVE VOICES, WE ARE STILL SUPPOSED TO BE THE ONES WHO WATCH OUR GOVERNMENT AND MAKE THOSE WE ELECT BE RESPONSIBLE TO US FOR OUR SAFETY AND FOR OUR LONG- AND SHORT-TERM HEALTH.

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