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[ISN] Exclusive: Los Alamos Breach Was Easy
By Sharyl Attkisson
May 20, 2007
(CBS) - When Jessica Quintana wanted to sneak classified material out of
the nation's top nuclear weapons lab, the biggest outrage is how
scandalously simple it was.
"Where I was, It was easy," she tells CBS News correspondent Sharyl
Last week Quintana, 23, plead guilty to the national security breach at
Los Alamos. In an exclusive interview with CBS News, she tells how she
She was just 18, right out of high school, when the Lab hired her to
archive documents. The job came with a security clearance that gave her
access to highly sensitive weapons data.
Last summer Quintana claims she wanted to take some work home, a major
security violation. She walked unchallenged into a special work vault
with a computer storage device called a flashdrive.
"I had the flashdrive in my pocket when I entered the vault that day,"
recalls Quintana. "And at some point in the day I knew I wasn't being
watched, the racks were open, simply inserted the flashdrive into my
computer, took what I needed."
It was material related to underground nuclear weapons tests from the
70's, and she printed more classified documents — 228 pages.
"I printed out the pages I needed and put in my backpack with my school
books and walked out like I did every day," said Quintana.
The materials were found accidentally months later by local police
during a drug raid on Quintana's roommate in their trailer home, reports
It's an understatement to say that walking out with national secrets
shouldn't have been so easy, especially in light of the rash of security
scandals at Los Alamos: missing hard drives, even radioactive material
Tens of millions of tax dollars have been spent to upgrade security.
Quintana's case raises the question. Have others, even spies, made off
with top secret material?
Quintana says in the years she worked at the lab, nobody ever questioned
or searched her. Not once.
"They were so lax about coming in and out," said Quintana.
Congress was so outraged that the Energy Department fired its top
nuclear security official.
Quintana has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and faces up to a year
in jail. Her lawyer says Americans can thank her for one thing: exposing
persistent gaps in security at a place guarding some of our most
sensitive nuclear secrets.
© MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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