Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested an employee
at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (see update below) earlier today for trying to sell classified uranium enrichment materials to what he thought was a “foreign country.” The employee has been identified as Roy Lynn Oakley of Roane County, a former contract worker with Bechtel Jacobs at the East Tennessee Technology Park.
Today’s arrest was part of an FBI sting operation that began after agents raided a house in January searching for stolen materials from the lab. ABC News reports that another arrest was supposedly made several months ago. An AP source has stated that Oakley does not appear to be connected to any terrorist organizations and, according to NBC sources, he was primarily motivated by money.
POGO released a report last year which determined that Oak Ridge National Laboratory [update: again the arrest actually occurred at the nearby East Tennessee Technology Park] lacked some of the most basic security measures and also lacked a clear plan for strengthening security. In 2005, as part of a broader nuclear reorganization proposal, POGO recommended that Oak Ridge should be “de-inventoried of all Special Nuclear Materials.
Oakley’s breach of security is only the latest in a long series of lapses at the nation’s nuclear laboratories. You can read a list of past security issues since the Wen Ho Lee incident below the fold.
-- John Pruett
Update: Roy Lynn Oakley was an employee with Bechtel Jacobs and had worked at the East Tennessee Technology Park until earlier this year. The Park is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee but is not a part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It was formerly named the K-25 site and was used during the Manhattan Project to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Since then, it served as a nuclear power center and was shut down in 1987. A process of "reindustrialization" began in 1996 to clean up the site and transform it into a new uranium enrichment facility and business park for private industry.
Update 2: Frank Munger with the Knoxville News Sentinel has reported new information on the case. A US District Court document obtained by the Sentinel reveals that Roy Oakley had been a maintenance worker for Bechtel Jacobs until caught in the FBI sting operation on January 26. According to the article:
“Mr. Oakley was assigned to break up rods with his hands into small sections to be thrown away,” the document filed in U.S. District Court said. “The rods were not radioactive and, broken into pieces, had no apparent use except to be disposed.”
The rods were associated with the former uranium-enrichment operations at the plant, and Oakley took three to five of the broken rods to his home and later decided they might be of interest to another country.
The French Embassy in Washington, D.C., reportedly turned down Oakley’s offer, but at some point later Oakley got a call from someone purported to be an official at the embassy. It turned out to be an FBI agent, the document said.
Negotiations over a plea agreement subsequently failed and the US attorney's office secured an indictment. When Oakley arrived at the US Probation Office in Knoxville today, the news media was already waiting for him, which led Oakley's attorney, Herbert Moncier, to accuse the Justice Department of leaking the story.
Update 3: The Justice Department has issued a press release (pdf) announcing that, following Oakley's arrest today, he has been formally charged by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee with two counts of violating federal law. Oakley is scheduled to appear before a US Magistrate Judge in Knoxville on July 19.
Nuclear Weapons Follies:
Major Security and Safety Failures of the Nuclear Weapons Complex since Wen Ho Lee
July, 2007 - Los Alamos lab worker with “highest possible security clearance” arrested in cocaine drug bust. July 6, 2007. SOURCE: AP
June, 2007 - Los Alamos board member sends highly classified email message unsecured, compromising “the most serious breach of U.S. national security. SOURCE: Time Magazine
May, 2007 – POGO notifies DOE Secretary Bodman that Pantex nuclear weapons plant has roughly 200 security officers protecting its facility during a union strike even though it normally has 537. SOURCE: POGO
October 20, 2006 - Los Alamos National Laboratory classified information found in a meth lab drug bust in a trailer park. The incident, in part, causes the resignation of National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton Brooks in January, 2007. The DOE IG finds that the Lab still lacks adequate safeguards for approving clearances and handling classified information, despite years of foibles. SOURCES: POGO, the House Energy Commerce Committee, and Time Magazine
June, 2006 - NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks informs Congress that computer hackers got access to detailed personal information, including Social Security numbers for about 1,500 DOE contract workers in September, 2005. Yet neither the workers whose personal information was compromised, nor the DOE's cyber-security head were notified about the incident. SOURCE: AP
May, 2006 -- A former Los Alamos employee files suit, saying "she was forced to resign from the lab in January because she refused to keep quiet about a work accident that damaged her lungs." SOURCE: Albuquerque Journal
August, 2005 - Two employees are exposed to hazardous chemical fumes at Los Alamos. One employee who was contaminated was told to keep working even though she complained of feeling dizzy. She then went on vacation and experienced severe respiratory problems. As a result, she had to be hospitalized for six days. SOURCES: POGO and DOE Occurrence report
July, 2005 - According to a search warrant issued by the U.S. District Court of New Mexico, a Sandia employee has stolen iPods, computers and a robotic dog and sold them on Ebay. SOURCE: POGO
July 14, 2005 - A worker contaminated with deadly Americium-241 at Los Alamos goes undetected for 11 days. As a result, contamination is spread from New Mexico to Kansas and Colorado, and later to Pennsylvania when contamination was then shipped through Federal Express. DOE subsequently notes that the University of California which managed Los Alamos would have been fined $1.1 million for the incident (LANL as a nonprofit was exempted from paying), the highest civil penalty ever under its nuclear enforcement program. SOURCES: POGO and DOE Occurrence reports
February, 2005 - A December, 2004 report finds serious deficiencies in protecting workers and the community from a nuclear release or accident by the Sandia National Laboratory. SOURCES: POGO and DOE report
September 2004 -- Wackenhut guard fired a weapon accidentally loaded with live ammunition (instead of the dummy rounds that were supposed to be used) during a training exercise in Y-12's cafeteria. The bullet went through a refrigerator and a wall, and ended up hitting a filing cabinet in the next room. SOURCE: POGO
September 2, 2004 - Y-12 security guards almost shoot each other in a force-on-force exercise after managers fail to follow proper security protocols. SOURCE: New York Times
July 18, 2004 - POGO release exposes there were 17 incidents involving classified information sent over an unclassified email system at Los Alamos. SOURCE: POGO
May 20, 2004 - Los Alamos confirms that classified computer media can not be accounted for. On July 23, 2004, the Department of Energy shuts down operations involving Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) across the entire nuclear weapons complex. SOURCES: DOE, POGO, and Govexec.com
November, 2003 - DOE IG confirms that, in multiple incidents, Lawrence Livermore National Lab lost nine sets of master keys and three magnetic cards, causing it to replace 100,000 locks on 526 buildings at a cost of $1.7 million to the taxpayer. SOURCE: Washington Post
June 20, 2003 -- LANL admits losing plutonium. SOURCE: POGO
June, 2003 - In a letter to DOE Secretary Abraham, Senator Charles Grassley complains that security investigators at Sandia National Lab are retaliated against and confirms the theft of a Verizon van at the Lab noting: "The van was stolen from inside a classified area and crashed undetected through perimeter fences at 5 a.m. in what is described as a `high risk' exit maneuver.It was discovered a day and a half later in a local department store parking lot." SOURCE: New York Times
April, 2003 - William Cleveland, Jr., head of Lawrence Livermore's security office resigns after acknowledging he had an affair with Chinese double agent Katrina Leung, who later pled guilty to lying to the FBI. SOURCES: CNN/AP, and Washington Times
March, 20, 2003 - Sandia National Laboratory President announces an investigation finding a variety of security breakdowns including: "security police officers observed eating, watching TV, and sleeping on duty, to theft of government-owned computer parts and software, to disappearance and reappearance of a set of keys to Sandia buildings." SOURCE: Sandia
January 27, 2003 - DOE IG finds that security contractor Wackenhut has been cheating on security tests at the Y-12 nuclear facility for two decades. SOURCE: Associated Press
January 15, 2003 -- A computer hard drive that contains classified data has been missing from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) since October 2002, but top officials at the Department of Energy (DOE) have failed to investigate the loss. On January 16, 2003, DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham issues a statement saying: "I am deeply troubled that Los Alamos National Laboratory is unable to account for computer equipment and other materials as part of lab management's inventory control and audit program," SOURCES: DOE & POGO
November, 2002 -- Memo from the Los Alamos Office of Security finds more than 200 missing computers, including from classified black programs. A January 2003 report by the DOE IG later corroborates the memo, scolds Los Alamos for firing the officers who wrote the memo and details security weaknesses. SOURCES: POGO and DOE IG
June, 2000 -Two hard drives containing nuclear weapons secrets disappear at Los Alamos. They are mysteriously found several weeks later behind a copy machine. SOURCES: U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee and LANL
May, 2000 - A Department of Energy report states officials at Los Alamos pressured employees to say security at the facility is better than it really is.
March, 1999 - Wen Ho Lee, a Los Alamos nuclear weapons scientist, is investigated by the FBI for allegedly downloading nuclear secrets onto his hard drive.