U.S. Lab Loses Drugs That Could Kill 1,750 People

A government-owned nuclear laboratory long plagued by scandals and security breaches is in trouble again for recklessly managing controlled substances, including enough opioids to kill more than 1,700 people. Other illicit narcotics mishandled by the taxpayer-funded compound’s staff include morphine, methamphetamine, codeine and cocaine. The drugs are routinely used for research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the same facility where Judicial Watch exposed a Chinese Communist scientist that stole nuclear secrets two decades ago.

Located near Santa Fe, Los Alamos is among the world’s largest science institutions and the nation’s key nuclear weapons research facility. The massive lab is charged with developing technology to reduce global threats and ensure the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. It also conducts work involving controlled substances to assist law enforcement agencies with drug traffickers that produce and distribute illicit narcotics. In a recent example, the lab researchers could not account for 3.5 grams of fentanyl, according to a federal audit that outlines the facility’s latest mishaps. The U.S. government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse has determined that “fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.”

In the latest Los Alamos audit, the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General blasts the lab for losing such a large quantity of the deadly opioid. “In this instance, the surplus amount created an opportunity for the misuse or loss of a Schedule II narcotic that is increasingly being linked to drug overdose deaths in the United States,” the report states. “Based on this lethal dose amount, the loss or misuse of 3.5 grams of fentanyl due to an inventory error has the potential to cause 1,750 deaths.” The lab also violated federal laws and regulations by failing to properly keep track of the other controlled substances listed above. Investigators found that “Los Alamos possessed mislabeled procurement records, inaccurate inventories, and retained controlled substance inventories well beyond the conclusion of experiments.” The lab does not have the appropriate procedures or controls to monitor, track, account for and dispose of controlled substances, the agency watchdog concluded.

Incredibly, disarray and incompetence have long been the norm at this essential government nuclear compound. Judicial Watch has for decades monitored Los Alamos and helped expose a Chinese Communist scientist (Wen Ho Lee), who stole nuclear secrets from the facility back in 1999. The Bill Clinton Justice Department refused to prosecute Lee because then Attorney General Janet Reno claimed the accusations against him were racist. Judicial Watch represented the whistleblower, Notra Trulock, responsible for launching an investigation into Lee’s actions. Trulock was the DOE’s intelligence operations chief and Clinton administration officials defamed him by accusing him of being a racist to cover up Lee’s repeated and embarrassing security violations.

A legion of scandals has rocked the facility since then mainly involving the government’s perpetual failure to adequately guard the lab’s highly classified material. A few years ago, a Los Alamos scientist and his wife, both contractors at the facility, stole “classified restricted data” involving nuclear weapons and passed it along to a foreign government that’s hostile to the U.S. The scientist, Pedro Leonardo Mancheron, was a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina and his wife, Marjorie, also an American citizen, did technical writing and editing at Los Alamos. Both had security clearances and passed the classified material to a person they believed to be a Venezuelan government official. The scientist admitted selling the information relating to the “United States’ national defense” and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). His wife admitted communicating restricted data belonging to the United States to another person with reason to believe that the information would be used to secure an advantage to Venezuela. She also admitted lying to the FBI.

Before that, Los Alamos officials sent top secret data relating to nuclear weapons via an open electronic mail network and police accidentally stumbled upon it in a drug dealer’s mobile home during a drug bust. The highly classified information included details of the actual characteristics of nuclear material used in weapons. The 1,500 highly classified nuclear weapons designs were stashed in a trailer park near the lab along with paraphernalia to manufacture methamphetamine. In 2017 the lab mistakenly shipped radioactive material on a commercial cargo plane. In the late 90s and early 2000 the facility became an embarrassment to the Energy Department. Revelations of theft, fraud, security lapses and lax oversight kept Los Alamos in the news and led to the release of an Energy Department document labeling it “a systematic management failure.”

Judicial Watch
The motto of Judicial Watch is “Because no one is above the law”. To this end, Judicial Watch uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.