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Thursday, July 2, 2009

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

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge Gary, where'd you leave that laptop of yours?
  • 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


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.


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


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:


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


And furthermore:


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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Matt Smith


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