Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Questions about adequacy of management and oversight of all DoE labs

DoE Lab Management Oversight: Have personnel failed to heed SAS99 indicators and were they deliberately distracted by competing non-LANL labs?

Apparently, non-LANL employees from competing labs have been representing themselves as being part of LANL.

Yet, have non-LANL management taken advantage of the attention on LANL as a red herring to deflect attention from issues that would otherwise warrant increased management review and audit scope at non-LANL labs?

This note outlines the implications of whether DoE Management has been adequate; whether personnel at competing labs may have used the LANL-focus as an opportunity to distrat attention from competing lab issues; and whether there warrants an increase in oversight of DoE labs per Statement on Accounting Standard 99, Indicators of Fraud.

It is hoped this note will form a rough outline for future inquiry into whether competing labs have been inappropriately influencing decision makers in matters of program funding, inter alia . . .

Did former LANL employees assigned to other labs:

  • Give misleading information to the FBI;

  • Go to UC-President to lobby for funding in the wake of the LANL scandal;

  • Sate "what should be going on" to seek revenge on LANL, all the while having no direct or actual knowledge of what procedures were in place at the time?

    DoJ OPR needs to find out:

  • Who at the other labs, if anyone, spun up the FBI;

  • Who, with the FBI's concurrence, went to UC-DOE to say "this is what happened" knowing there was no evidence; and

  • How were initial investigations able to return findings unrelated to reality?


    To think that non-LANL employees from competing labs could be posting as if they were from LANL.

    Kind of leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

    But, let’s look at what could possibly motivate that.

  • Divert attention

    What’s been going on in the UC-system that would prompt one lab to stand by or actively undermine another labs reputation?

    If you can’t compete on skill or talent, do what you can to tear other institutions down.

    I suspect what may be happening is that in the wake of the first LANL series of problems, other lab-management at the other labs looked at this as an opportunity to posture themselves before both the senior lab oversight and DoE.

    Yet, what is most disturbing is a far more sinister prospect. Doing a cursory review of the events up to this point, I’m struck with how quickly UC management and apparently federal authorities were able to arrive at a series of conclusions so at odds with what happened.

    Simplistically, many people entered the scene, confirmed a problem, and Todd was fired.

    Small problem: Nothing added up.

    So the question becomes: What momentum and catalyst energized this witch hunt?

    Which brings us back to the latest revelations about non-LANL lab employees apparently posturing themselves as if they were from LANL, but they were actually assigned to another lab.

    Is it possible that someone who was formerly assigned to LANL and was transferred to another lab has sought to use the events at LANL as their opportunity for revenge?

    Would they go so far as to become an anonymous FBI informants, and say, “I used to work there, this is what should be going on, and it wasn’t” all the while having actually no idea of what actually happened?

    Then, in turn, would the FBI rely on this information, conduct an investigation based on this allegedly misleading information, and come to a conclusion contrary to supportable evidence?

    I think its well within the possibility of not only what happened, but continues to happen.

    In other words, at a time when LANL is coming under greater public attention, who actually benefits from this?

    Why, the competing labs who are unable to attract talent on their own. What better way to posture oneself before DoE management than to say, “We aren’t like those guys at LANL.”

    Small problem: There’s no problem with LANL. The problem is with “those who are using LANL for their own agendas.”

    At this point, we have no facts. That’s the problem. But what we do know is that there have been funding, personnel, and program decisions based on the same personnel inputs from people posting to this blog.

    It remains a matter of law to what extent, if any, personnel at competing labs may have knowingly provided misleading, incorrect, or deliberately unsubstantiated assertions about “what should be going on” at LANL; or to what extent law enforcement, namely the FBI, relied on those assertions; and to what extent someone was inappropriately fired based on misleading statements provided by competing lab employees, management, or others.

    What we do know is the it is well within the scope of possibility that someone at a competing lab benefits by the perceived problems at LANL. LANL gets the attention, flack, and the blame for anything.

    At times when management at competing labs might be under pressure to justify their budgets solely on funding and priorities, one would think that they might tend to get a pass or a slight edge so long as there remains this perceived cloud handing over LANL.

    What better way to add fuel to that fire and add additional smoke and confusion, than to either encourage, endorse, or do nothing when competing lab members post to LANL and begin discussing “problems” as if they were LANL employees.

    What we do know is that the following evidence exists:

  • FBI 302s

    Review the signed documents and determine whether there are any video or audio recordings of informants or other admissible evidence establishing what was said.

  • IT access logs

    The goal here would be to identify at each competing labs the times and dates that computers were accessed; when personnel sent messages or provided information to the LANL blog; and to what extent these timelines contradict assertions to investigators.

  • Computer access

    The goal here is to compare the access times with the times that personnel were assigned to the labs; and determine whether competing-lab-management was aware of, knew of, or actively involved in posting information on the LANL blog.

  • E-mail

    The goal with reviewing e-mail is to compare what was privately stated within the competing labs; how this information compared with the public statements management was representing to DoE management; and whether personnel were knowingly part of a conspiracy to divert attention from potential problems at the competing labs, or providing information to law enforcement that was not based on actual information or evidence.

  • Blog access times

    The blog access times can be compared to the information from the competing lab management IT centers. This would establish whether personnel assigned to non-LANL labs were on one hand privately stating to FBI agents one set of facts, but then publicly asserting in the blog a separate set of facts.

    Also, the blog access times could be compared to both the e-mail lists, the IT access logs, and the management discussions in order to establish what was said, what prompted certain communications, and whether there was an orchestrated effort by competing lab management to shift attention from internal problems, or shine the light on issues which were not based on factual evidence.

  • DoJ reviews

    It would be appropriate to review the adequacy of the DoJ Office of Personnel Responsibility reviews of FBI. Specifically, once it was known that the information related to the “missing” disks was illusory, it remains to be understood to what extent DoJ OPR properly and appropriately reviewed the 302s to determine whether there were fact patterns or other patterns of conduct that warranted review per the FBI MAOP.

    It would be appropriate to review what information the US Attorney’s office provided directly or indirectly to both the US Attorney and DOJ OPR to evaluate to what extent the US Attorney was aware of problematic FBI interview practices, or whether security findings were forwarded to DoJ OPR that were not based on factual evidence.

    Further, it would be appropriate to explore the scope of FBI SAC cross talks in jurisdictions to evaluate whether the SACs were properly disseminating information that was factually supported, or whether this information was no properly vetted.

    Moreover, it would be appropriate to understand to what extent, if any, inputs from personnel at competing labs was actively rebuffed, ignored, or inappropriately declined by field agents when that decisions is up to the US Attorney.

    It would be problematic if, despite the LANL focus, there was other conduct occurring at competing labs which DOJ collectively agreed to push to the side or not review.

    Again, we find no evidence to justify what happened to Todd. During this time of DoJ interest, it remains to be understood what information from competing labs that “didn’t fit the profile of what was going on at LANL” that would have otherwise warranted increase in either audit scope or prompted information law enforcement inquiries.

  • Meeting minutes

    Meeting minutes are important to review at the UC level. This would establish what was said, what competing lab managers may have said, and come to an understanding of the basis for decision in re programmatic decision, personnel moves, promotions, or other funding related decisions.

    Although the business decision rule would apply in re best information, the problem we run into is when there are allegations that the information provided to upper management is based on misleading information or statements that have no supportable evidence.

    Meeting minutes would help ground the decision points, and then we could evaluate the subsequent message traffic, e-mails, and blog postings to find out whether there is a relationship between internal communications, public statements, and subsequent funding decisions.

    It would be a problem if personnel were engaged in a ruse to fuel the attention and perceived problems at LANL at lead-time-away from significant milestone and funding decision point.

  • Signed policy memos

    It remains to be understood what discussions occurred, signed memos, e-mail or other discussions occurred to justify policies at competing labs.

    Specifically, if there were changes in the policy memos based on information that was otherwise not publicly available from LANL; or there were efforts to convince others that there were problems at LANL that were actually real problems at other labs, it would be interesting to find to what actually prompted these policy memos.

    In other words, was there an effort to highlight conditions and problems at LANL not because they were real, but that competing managers hoped to deflect attention from similar issues; and then during an audit or investigation they backdated policy memos, findings, or other paperwork to retroactively correct this in-house problem?

  • Budget documents

    As you can see, it’s not just all funding. There is a line of evidence linking electronic data, discussions, and staff summaries.

    It remains to be understood to what extent DoE funding decisions on the documents provided to Congress were based o fiction. Specifically, if DoE and UC came to conclusions about “what happened” at LANL [but they are not supported by evidence], we could raise questions about the other scope of similar conclusions equally not supported by evidence.

    Bluntly, it remains to be understood whether DoE, once they were aware of this problem with the illusory evidence, properly rescrubbed the budget requests from the competing labs.

    In other words, once it was known that the evidence and fact patterns were not linked with management conclusions:

  • A. Was there sufficient DoE management interest in the UC system and the competing labs to look at the wider possibility that other management inputs and conclusions about budgets and programs were less supportable; and

  • B. Did DoE management at DC HQ properly increase audit scope per SAS 99/82/53 to mitigate the risks of approving budgets with more questionable foundations?

    Each of these pieces of evidence could very well answer the following types of questions:

  • What discussions occurred at the competing labs about the LANL problems

  • Were there any discussions about how to manage, leverage, or take advantage of the LANL problems to posture the competing labs before DoE

  • To what extent were personnel at the competing labs providing information to the FBI on the practices at LANL

  • How many non-LANL employees at competing labs provided direct or indirect inputs to the FBI, lab management, and/or DoE management to provide background information on the lab

  • To what extent did the FBI rely on these inputs from non-LANL employees in order to arrive at an understanding of what to expect when approaching the LANL environment

    There could be no problem. The problem, could in fact, lie squarely with LANL.

    However, at this juncture, all bets are off.

    In my view, it is entirely possible that at a time when LANL was under the spotlight, personnel formerly assigned to LANL and now working in competing labs could very well have seen this as an opportunity to posture themselves.

    It remains unclear to what extent personnel, funding, or programmatic decisions were affected, influenced, adjusted, material, or would otherwise have adjusted a decision had the LANL problems not existed.

    Indeed, even if people were providing information and this information was misleading, the courts could very well rule that the inputs, information, and evidence would not otherwise have changed the outcome of the decisions.

    Yet, what I do know is that if the same scrutiny were placed on the competing labs as has been placed on LANL, I wonder what we might find:

  • How many non-LANL employees have accessed the LANL blog, posted information, and otherwise provided misleading information;

  • How many non-LANL employees provided information to the FBI in order to get revenge on LANL management;

  • How many competing labs personnel fueled the witch hunt at LANL by drafting letters of outrage so as to deflect attention from their own lab; and

  • How many managers at competing labs have used the LANL problems as a marketing tool to attract researchers?

    It would be interesting to find out, that despite all the complaints about LANL management, that these complaints were partially fueled by competing managers at competing labs hoping to dissuade the best researchers from going to what is arguably the best lab.

    Grants and funding can be an interesting game. It is competition.

    In the Cold War the easy answer was to blame all the problems on communism.

    Today, the bogey man is AlQueda. Unfortunately, the 10,000 AlQueda-rumor has proven to be just that: Just a bogey man.

    It is curious that in the absence of a visible threat, many will turn on their fellow academics merely to gain a slight edge.

    Such as the basis to assert the US was far superior to the Communists and Fascists. In fact, it is no different than the posturing in the Post WWII era. There were many moves to attract former Nazi-scientists to either the Soviet Union or the West.

    Today, the battle is to attract both talent and funding despite a waning foe.

    The Americans have proven themselves adept at not only creating enemies where there are no weapons, but also finding fault where there is no evidence.

    It is time to adjust the lighting. Time to broaden the searchlight. Time to shine the same light that has glared in the LANL employees and shine it onto the other labs.

    They deserve the same scrutiny. And to find out that their employees may have been posting on an LANL blog in order to secure funding, shift attention, and posture is disgusting.

    But not all that surprising. We’ve seen worse. And I’m sure before all is said and done, we’ll find many more unpleasant truths about what Americans are capable of doing to each other all in the name of science, freedom, and “democracy.”

    This legacy is not what the founding fathers envisioned. And it is no better than the conditions which precipitated the signing of the Magna Carta.

    The idea was that a free people could assert truth based on evidence, not require trials by ordeal.

    In the old days, if someone was innocent, it was presumed that God would intervene to save them from the ordeal.

    Also, long ago, before there were rules of evidence, the juries were not impartial. Rather, they were asked to convene because they knew the parties.

    The members of the jury would simply meet on their own, discuss what they know of the parties, and render their judgment.

    It is a shame that in the absence of real evidence, a man was publicly tried and convicted.

    This man is no longer with us. But his legacy should be a reminder of what reforms are needed, not just within the US judicial system, but within corporate governance, management, and administrative law.

    The days of posturing based on innuendo will continue. It is called politics. Yet, politics is designed to be civil not this ugly.

    With time, the facts will surface and they could very well be suppressed or destroyed. But know that even if no one at the competing labs is ultimately found to have committed any wrong doing, the American academics have shown what they are capable of doing.

    This is a useful reminder for anyone hoping to make some informed decisions about where to allocate their capital, raise a family. Recreate, get a higher education, or otherwise go to build a new life.

    When you deal with Americans, beware! What you believe is going on could very well be the opposite. In the end, those who believe the illusion can very well lose everything, but for their own mind, and willingness to find to find out what is going on and what could very well unfold.

    The risks of doing business in America are like a pendulum, swinging back between effective and meaningless regulation.

    The rules apply not simply to managerial conduct and financial statements, but also to the participants in how they conduct their affairs, do their investigations, and arrive at professional opinions.

    I would like to thanks the competing labs for showing their true colors and assisting in providing information that would shed light on what has turned into a rather disgraceful legacy for the Department of Energy, the Department of “Justice” and Congressional oversight.

    In short, at the time when the country most needed effective checks and balances, many fell down and sadly blamed Todd. The problem is clearly something else.

    Caveat emptor.