An employee at a nuclear weapons laboratory that is awarded government contracts was found by The Department of Energy to be violating policy by classifying and declassifying government information for more than a year, an inspector general report found.
The Triad National Security employee at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) — located in New Mexico — was impersonating a derivative classifier (DC) and reviewing official (RO) since at least February 2020. The Department of Energy received an anonymous tip and was provided an example of the employee declassifying controlled nuclear information.
Information, documents, and material are classified if they are determined under the Atomic Energy Act to warrant protection in the interest of national security. Only derivative classifiers are permitted to “confirm that an unmarked document or material is unclassified or determine that it is classified as allowed by the description of authority.” They are nominated, trained, and appointed by a classification officer.
“We substantiated the allegation that the employee reviewed and marked documents as a DC/RO even though the employee was not an authorized DC/RO,” the report states. “In discussions with LANL officials, we found that LANL was aware of the allegation and had conducted a security investigation, a Human Resources-Employee Relations (HR-ER) investigation, and an extent-of-condition review. LANL’s Security Incident Team was notified that the Employee had performed a classification review of a document, but it had been discovered that the Employee was not trained or certified to be a DC/RO. . . LANL has taken corrective action.”
While LANL maintains an authorized list on official DC/RO’s internally, the employee’s name was not on the list. The employee claimed during the HR investigation a manager showed them an unofficial list and the employee’s name was on it. Still, HR did not find any corresponding document or materials showing the employee as a DC or RO.
The energy department says in the report that it “attributed this incident to unofficial DC/RO lists, weaknesses in the annual security training course, insufficient staffing in the Classification Office at LANL, and an inadequate testing universe during classification decision reviews.” One employee at LANL told the department its DC/RO list had not been updated for nine months.
HR’s investigation found “there was no unauthorized dissemination of information associated with this allegation,” but the report says this could easily “occur in the future if proper controls are not implemented.”
The energy department is now recommending all “unofficial” classifier and reviewing official lists are “discontinued,” and that the lab conducts a review of internal documents to vet whether unauthorized individuals are marking documents.
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