Constant's pations

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

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sandia Lab: American management under needed adult supervision and scrutiny

Reader Tip: Harvard Westlake litigation articles are here in the archive.

How a blog sunk a Navy Man.

Where will the blogs strike next? A preview.Dateline LANL: Lab director Nanos to fly DC for a marshmallow roast. Why?

Congress plans to look into the Lab. What are they going to look at?The New York Times and TV guide are monitoring Doug's blog closely. It's gotten to the point that the NYT is now monitoring where DOE HQ is reading. Or is it TV guide is monitoring the NYT which is monitoring . . .

Refresh your memory of what happened in 2003. Supposedly many things were changed in 2003. There were many people involved.

Now, in 2005, the question becomes: What's changed, and why? What would prompt such an outpouring of attention despite the cataclysmic events in 2003?

One would think that one round of firings and management shakeups was enough. This is not impressive neither for the country, nor for the legacy of a lab.

  • Why did the UC-review in 2003 not have some sort of follow-up plan to ensure the situation was addressed?

  • How effective were the advertised reforms?

  • Why does it take the Congress of the United States and a single weblog to awaken management and the UC Board of Regents to the scope of the problem?

    These are some of the issues in a few readers mind. But put those aside. For the larger issue becomes, in light of the 2003-firings-and-reforms, we remain unclear to what extent there has been malfeasance at the University of California.

    The Board of Trustees has a job to do. That is to ensure the lab is properly supervised and managed. They have the power to appoint, monitor, review, and advise the Vice President appointed over all the Labs.

  • Where was the board?

  • Where are copies of the meeting minutes between 2002 and 2005?

  • Where are the signed policy memos?

  • What happened to the 1-800 whistleblower hotline number -- was it not used or has it proven ineffectual in responding to the concerns raised on the blog?

  • Where are the budget documents?

    Someone was in charge. Someone was approving the decisions and appointments.

  • What didn't get done and why?

    However, there are larger issues in 2005. The situation in the lap is now at a new level. There are other issues involved. They relate to manning movements and political contributions in the energy community.

    The same legal firm that provided substantial funding to the Bush Administration and Los Angeles [and possibly dissuaded the DA from bringing criminal charges for hate crimes], is the same law firm closely connected to the White House in re Homeland Security [DHS] hirings.

    The last thing this energy-related law firm needs right now is a legal battle and investigation into campaign contributions at the very time that they're both orchestrating personnel moves within both DoE and DHS and also hoping to continue to provide legal advice to the energy community.

    But it doesn't stop there. There is the issue of the hidden evidence. Some suggest that what is known is known; and what is not known never happened. But there are things that have happened that some believe "there is no evidence."

    On the contrary, there are databases outside the American's control that is starting to emerge. If admitted into evidence, this information could very well impeach witnesses and show that personnel have committed perjury.

    Recall the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib video tapes which suddenly appeared. Also recall that these tapes only surfaced after the Secretary of State and US Solicitor General asserted publicly to the contrary: That there was no evidence of torture.

    The trap has already been set. For the lab operations relate to some very curious things. Program analysts, researchers, and formerly military personnel continue their work.

    But they remain concerned. There's a real possibility the lab chould be shutdown and businesses are starting to close on the news of the unfolding mess.

    Echelon, Choicepoint, Law enforcement databases and Operation Falcon

    At the same time, there is a parallel effort within DoJ to quiet discussion about the Operation Falcon and the data leaks from ChoicePoint. DoJ has an interest in maintaining public confidence and funding. There is one problem. It appears that the data contained in these official databases are not effectively managed. It remains to be understood whether DoJ and contractors are appropriately managing this information.

    What does this have to do with the lab? The lab has another side to it. Who do you think reviews the information that comes in from overseas? Individuals assigned to the lab are responsible for assessing the directions of other nation's commercial and national security efforts.

    There needs to be a better understanding of the lab's role in supporting Echelon; and also the extent to which private databases are funded through the lab, and these datasets are forwarded to non-official personnel for analysis and aggrgation.

    It is curious that despite the claims of "there was no torture in Guantanamo," the evidence emerged. For, who would think that out of the middle of nowhere, NSA would miss the transmissions when it came to the little accident during the training. Let's hope they don't leave any more evidence.

    What happens if data, information, and documents outside the American's control suddenly were to appear demonstrating that many people have been lying about many things: Work, level of effort, progress, funding traces, audit results, statutory compliance, and public law.

    It is not uncommon for a contractor to have only two [2] hours of work to spread over an eight-hour [8] shift. Peers remind the newly assigned, "Pace yourself."

    Indeed, contractors have enough time to surf the internet posting about their favorite singer, cooking recipies and search the internet for auto parts and DVD players. All while they're on the job. And to think that we've been told there's not enough manpower to fight a war. How's that manpower study going? Hmmm... Those claims appear hollow.

    This note outlines a number of areas Congressional Staffers and outside media may wish to dive into in re litigation issues and allegations of malfeasance at LANL.

    Sandia: Will it be a model for LANL and the rest of the country? Easily.

    Body of knowledge: Why has some much been ignored?

    Since the lab first opened, there's been plenty of time to build up corporate knowledge. These important lessons cannot be cast to the wind, but should continue to be applied. Yet, with retirements, these valuable lessons will evaporate, driving up costs, further reducing the labs efficiency.

    Yet, what corporate knowlede remains should readonably be expected to get applied. But in the wake of the 2003 shakeup, it looks as though many lessons learned didn't get applied or proper follow-up.

    What happened? To find out, there needs to be some adult supervision, and some straight answers.

    Here are some thoughts on what needs to happen as things unfold: Things can be understood. This management appears to thrive on making things appear convoluted. That will fail.

    These are not simply ethics or management issues, but allegations of violations of criminal law.

    Congressman Waxman

    He's on both theGovt Reform and the Homeland Security Oversight Committees.

    Waxman might be interesting in hearing more about the inability of DOE and this director to effectively manage the lab.

    It would be good for Waxman to know that the Director is possibly going to get transferred to DHS, and understand which law firms were instrumental in his hiring.

    Criminal allegations

    OSHA and other statues require careful record keeping. If management has falsified records, or threatened retaliation, this is good to document.

    If there is sufficient evidence the US Attorney may choose to look into allegations of procurement fraud.

    If the director has a bad habit of making misleading statements, this is good for outside investigators to know in advance.

    Civil litigation issues

    I encourage your to carefully review with counsel, and assert yourselves in the courts. It appears, despite the publicity, management is not taking you seriously.

    The type of counsel you may wish to consult are in the areas of Administrative Law.

    At this juncture, it is clear that a number of pervasive patterns and risk indicators exist within the lab.

    It remains to be understood through discovery, interrogatories, and other sources and methods [Echelon], to what extent management has knowingly conspired to dissuade employees from comparing notes with counsel; and/or have engaged in a reckless course of conduct to substantially affect the rights of the employees in creating a hostile work environment.

    They, the bullies, have brought this on themselves. Move without regard to the "woe is me" and "how dare you" indignation they are likely to display. This is a ruse.

    They are not your friends. They view you as sheep to be manipulated; let them experience the full consequences of their arrogance. There is no reason for you to continue to be treated this way.

    Allegations of malfeasance

    It seems interesting that when there were substantive issues in re safety, these were only reviewed by Congress and the national leader after outside pressure and publicity. It remains unclear why so much had to fall apart before needed attention occurred.

    More troubling is that management actions appear to only revolve around ensuring discipline, not effective Lab practices. There is a far more healthy balance, not just for the scientific community but for the broader community.

    It remains to be understood with appropriate legal advice of private counsel, whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a broader investigation in re conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corruption or willful malfeasance.

    * How were the laser tests planned?

    * What steps were taken to ensure safety requirements followed?

    * Were investigation results appropriately documented and applied to ensure practices brought into compliance?

    It is striking that the level of detail and attention given "goggle use around lasers" is at odds with the apparent lack of management attention given to substantive issues raised in re director integrity, fitness for duty, and effective human relations.

    Going forward, it would be helpful if the present director provided information on the plans to review the existing caselaw and internal controls to ensure Lab management practices meet the statutory requirements.

    * Where are these plans?

    * Who developed them?

    * Were the oversight plans consistent with what was presented in documentation to Congress?

    In other words, it remains to be explained why there was a significant management concern with what turned out to be an illusory problem with a disk, yet at the same time the larger issues seemed to garner little attention.

    For if the director truly is concerned about issues, we are struck by the curious contrast.

    Thus, we arrive at Doug's blog. The needed catalyst. And appropriately so.

    Allegations of conspiracy to create hostile work environment

    There are legal blogs which provide general information on workplace bullying.

    * Were the allegations appropriately investigated?

    * Did the agency follow their own guidelines?

    * How were reports of misconduct handled and was the director appropriately involved in the decisions?

    Again, the issue is not so much as what is happening in re bullying and workplace incompetence, but why there is an apparent contrast between management attention on what appear to be inconsequential issues, all the while the more substantive issues did not get the needed attention:

  • Manpower needed to perform the critical task;

  • Employee retention programs; and

  • the effectiveness is translating outstanding talent into a working, functional lab which performed above reproach in both form and substance.

    Allegations in re financial mismanagement

    It would be helpful if the internal auditors could provide copies of the memoranda associated with meeting minutes, budget documents, and signed policies. We are curious whether information has been properly filed, documented, and audited.

    Auditors are bound by professional ethics and should reasonably be expected to put into practice the lessons learned from their annual training.

    Indicators associated with financial fraud are well understood and promulgated in SAS 99, formerly SAS82/SAS53.

    Risk behavior is typically associated with individuals attempting to hide their own negligence and failings. Look at this list, and focus on the terms like "negligence."

    You'll notice that the pattern of behavior is one that will dovetail closely with the SAS 99 risk indicators which GAAP is supposed to be meet.

    Further, it remains unclear how the Labs financial internal controls can be credibly complied with given the scope of apparently misleading, contradictory, and unsupportable statements by all levels of management.

    This can be understood though internal audits and self-inspections. It remains to be understood through discovery the level to which budgeting personnel were threatened, ignored, or whose guidance was recklessly contradicted by senior management.

    These audits are coming. It is appropriate to prepare.

    * What evidence can the internal auditors show that they properly documented audit findings?

    * How were trends followed up and subsequently checked?

    * Has the internal auditor properly archived records in re allegations of management noncompliance with policies?

    Allegations General Counsel has failed to document and properly provide the requisite legal advice to the Lab Director

    One of the duties of the General Counsel is to ensure that sound legal advice is given. We remain puzzled why, despite this requirement, there appears to be loose and superficial consultations with the director.

    It would seem reasonable that if there were competent legal advice, counsel could show notes provided to the director outlining the General Counsel's concerns with the emerging litigation issues.

    What is clear is that the General Counsel and Internal auditors have appeared to have let down the workforce: Not ensuring that the SES conduct themselves at an appropriate level of professionalism.

    It is unfortunate that there has emerged not only a perception of double standards within management, but an emerging business practice of inappropriately interacting with all level of employees. The pattern is not isolated.

    Yet, we remain puzzled why, despite this pervasive pattern, things have escalated. Prudent management within DoE should have been able to rely on appropriate feedback mechanisms both at the Lab, and from other agencies.

    It is appropriate to understand to what extent, if any, DOE HQ in DC failed to timely respond to emerging indicators; and to what extent senior leadership within DOE failed to comprehend the gravity of the current situation.

    There is a credibility with the existing staff support for the director. It appears to have known well that there were problems. We are concerned that under a new director the existing staff may be reluctant to share the information and details associated with their knowledge. We hope the appropriate documents are retained for Congressional review and examination.

    Your General Counsel needs to be reminded of their professional ABA ethics standards, and be required to show that they took reasonable steps to ensure the workplace was conducting its affairs in a manner consistent with statute.

    The new director needs to understand why the General Counsel remains; and whether there is sufficient evidence to maintain confidence in the General Counsel available to the Director.

    However, given the gravity of the allegations and emerging patterns of misconduct, I see no evidence before me that the General Counsel is effective in ensuring that the allegations of internal control problems, poor management, or other allegations of malfeasance have properly documented, resolved, and timely forwarded to appropriate management. Perhaps the General Counsel for the director will be able to show evidence to justify continued confidence.

    * What evidence can the General Counsel show that the director was appropriately advised?

    * What form and substance did these consultations occur?

    * How was the Lab's General Counsel instrumental in ensuring that appropriate management indicators were properly compared with the statutory guidelines?

    Leadership within the SES requires personnel make informed decisions. There is no excuse for blindly trudging forth despite a rapidly imploding situation.

    Yet, there is also no excuse for the staff to have done nothing of substance but resign. We need to understand whether the DOE IG was properly energized; whether counsel was appropriately briefed of the investigation results; or whether there were other factors that impeded sound advice and appropriate remedies.

    Allegations DoJ has failed to cooperate with Director

    One of the responsibilities of the court is to ensure that institutions engaged in recidivism have a plan to come into statutory compliance.

    * After the Department of Justice [DOJ] reviewed the security lapses, what plan, if any, was in place to ensure the Lab met these legal goals?

    * What reviews did the DoJ's US Attorney make of these plans?

    * Once DoJ and the FBI consulted with DOE on their findings, what additional information was provided to the director by way of feedback on the progress to date?

    * Has the director taken effective steps to ensure the findings from DoJ were properly implemented?

    If the Special Agent in Charge ["Sack"] for the FBI is not giving to the Labs the information needed to improve security, then private counsel needs to make note of this in their reports to the DOJ OPR.

    If DoJ has not appropriately cooperated with the lab on substantive security issues, then that information needs to be documented, forwarded to DOJ OPR, and the Congressional Oversight Committees. The US Attorneys will violate the law if they can get away with it.

    Allegations of malfeasance within the Senate Judiciary Committee

    We remain concerned that the Senate Judiciary Committee staff has not effectively managed the correspondence between the committee and DoJ OPR.

    DoJ, for it to effectively support DoE in this critical national security work, also has some explaining to do. A problem like this doesn't grow in isolation, nor is the US Attorney always in the dark. Information was available.

    It remains to be understood why this information was not appropriately and timely provided to DoJ and DoE senior leadership at the SES level for a more appropriate response and action plan.

    One blog should not be the catalyst for Congress or DoE HQ to consider an adjustment.

    It remains to be understood whether the Congressional Staffers, in response to complaints from the Lab, correctly responded to allegations of malfeasance. There is a Congressional Correspondence Log at the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Evidence can be introduced showing when staff were notified of issues, and that they either failed to act, or did so with reckless disregard for their reporting requirements under the statutes.

    * Can the committee show that the congressional correspondence log is complete and accurate?

    * Were all DoJ personnel identified by name to the committee in re allegations of misconduct properly forwarded to DoJ OPR?

    * How were these issues resolved?

    The issues are not isolated to DoE and so too should the line of inquiry appropriately couch the full spectrum of accountability.

    Litigation risks

    Not all people have absolute immunity. There is potential for significant financial liability where the abuse is widespread, known, and there is sufficient evidence to show management was instrumental in creating the damage.

    All SES are aware of this risk. They have, or should have, personal liability insurance. At this juncture, it is not appropriate to feel guilty about going after their pocket books -- they have insurance. And they are bullies.

    Their goal is to make you lose in court; it would be appropriate to cease the internal battles within the and organize with competent counsel a discovery, evidence collection, and litigation strategy to make them lose.

    Talk to an appropriate licensed private counsel to review your legal options. You may face retaliation for simply daring to demand excellence.

    And you know you are capable of that. You have proven it. Let the world see what the lab is capable of becoming.

    You will not simply emerge stronger, but this catalyst will inspire many to continue the outstanding work. And continue your legacy of making the nation proud.

    Of what you do. What you accomplish. And what you will continue to create at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Good luck with your ongoing efforts and programs.

    You have a bright future. And should be justly proud of your accomplishments. And the fine work each and everyone is a part.

    Oh, there's that little matter with outsourcing the torture to contractors. Remember what happened during WWII. Seen any GulfStreams getting modifications lately?

    Lets start over

    There's a real problem. The actual workload and level of effort that people are saying is going on doesn't match the actual funding that is going through. And there are some contractors right now who are hell bent on keeping the gravy train going.

    Also, there are a couple of law firms who are now trying to figure out how they can get rid of the link they have to the funding that went to Los Angeles; and at the same time play stupid about their role in leaking Ambassador Wilson's wife's name.

    I want to start hearing something that resembles straight answers:

  • How much money has been funneled through the labs to fund these unlawful operations overseas which include torturing to death innocent people?

  • How much data about non-criminals have the contractors that work in the lab been given the green light to provide to NSA and GCHQ?

  • When you were planning Operation Falcon, how much money was funneled through the Lab then through DFAS and Quantico to fund training for contractors and military personnel to support the training program in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act?

    Some of the answers are on unedited Operation Falcon video tapes which DoJ is very worried about.

    Nanos and Bowman are both in the NAVY cleanup business.

    If there's a mess, these two are known to clean things up.

    Small problem. The mess is much bigger than they imagined at both the lab and at Guantanamo.

    Ooops. Go get some more marshmallows.

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