U.S. Report: Wave of Laptop Thefts Hits Nuclear Weapons Lab Employees

Gary, where'd you leave that laptop of yours?

The toil of the Bay Area's laptop thieves used to be simple: Hang around parking lots and cafes, nab an unattended computer, and put ads on Craigslist.

However, thanks to carelessness at an East Bay nuclear weapons lab, this workday has the potential to become much more tiring. Thanks to nuclear weapons workers' apparent habit of abandoning government laptops in public places, computer thieves may be now compelled to forgo Craigslist, and instead make sales calls to Al Qaeda operatives and North Korean spies.
According to a May report by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Energy, employees of the nuclear weapons research facility Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, have suffered a epidemic of laptop thefts.

According to the Inspector General Report:

During the course of our field work, we interviewed nine individuals who had reported their Government laptops stolen. Five said their laptops were stolen from their personal vehicles while offsite, and four of the individuals acknowledged that their laptops were clearly visible from outside their vehicles. They also acknowledged that, in hindsight, they should have better protected their laptops. We confirmed with the individuals that none of them had received any disciplinary action or were held financially liable for the stolen laptops.
Lawrence Livermore Labs main task consists of keeping America's nuclear weapons stockpile up to date through the use of advanced science, engineering, and technology. So one can only imagine the kind of extraordinarily valuable information such laptops could theoretically contain -- especially if a thief were able to find a special-needs client, like, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The report sttes Lawrence Livermore's highly educated employees weren't merely wont to lose devices to theft. They're apparently so terrible at keeping track of equipment that dozens of devices have disappeared, possibly appropriated  by recently-fired employees, possibly merely misplaced.

Following a recent spate Lawrence Livermore layoffs, in which employees were let go and told to leave the premises on the same day, managers reported they had no idea what had become of lab property that had been assigned to the ex-employees. The property included computers, lab equipment, and cameras -- the kind of equipment that could turn into a golden parachute if placed in the hands of an A.Q. Khan or Kim Jong-il.

According to the report:

"We sampled 125 property items assigned to 75 of the individuals who were given a final termination notification and were required to depart the facility on the same day. The 125 items, which included computers, cameras, and laboratory equipment, had been redistributed to new custodians. Using the data in Sunflower and with the assistance of property center representatives, we physically searched for the 125 property items. Of the 125 items, we could not immediately locate 22 items."

And furthermore:

"Several of the missing items were computers, some of which could only be located when the property center representatives electronically "pinged" the computers via the local network to determine their physical location since no one we interviewed had any knowledge as to their whereabouts."

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