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Energy chief: 'No espionage' in Los Alamos hard drives case
Grand jury will investigate security lapse
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said Wednesday that FBI investigators have found no evidence of espionage in the case of two computer hard drives that vanished, then reappeared at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Richardson, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, also announced that a grand jury has been convened to look into the case.
The two hard drives, each smaller than a deck of playing cards, held nuclear weapons secrets and were stored in a vault at the New Mexico lab.
"There is no evidence of espionage, nor is there evidence the drives ever left the Los Alamos "X" division," Richardson said. The lab's applied physics division -- also called the X division -- is a secure area of the lab where nuclear weapons are designed and where the vault is located.
"I can tell you this morning that the FBI has now determined that these are the authentic disk drives," Richardson said.
Describing the area as a "crime scene," Richardson said the FBI had found fingerprints at the X division and on the external wrappings of the hard drives.
Richardson said the disappearance of the hard drives may have been an unintentional mistake by a lab employee who was then afraid to come forward. "I will not take (disciplinary) action until I have all the facts before me," the energy secretary said.
The two hard drives were discovered missing May 7 when two scientists wanted to make sure the devices were protected from a wildfire that threatened the lab. The lab was evacuated the next day because of the fire threat, but no one reported the drives missing until May 31, triggering the investigation.
Richardson testified that the FBI now believes that the hard drives were last accounted for "at the tail end of March of this year, March 28."
Media reports on Tuesday suggested that the whereabouts of the devices may have been unknown for up to six months.
The drives mysteriously reappeared last Friday behind a copying machine in a room at the lab that already had been searched several times.
Timeline on missing Los Alamos hard drives in question
United States Senate Committee on Armed Services
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