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China has engaged in a decade-long campaign to place and recruit allied researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, according to a report by information security firm Strider Technologies.
The report stated that between 1987 and 2021, at least 162 scientists who passed through the nuclear research laboratory returned and worked with the Chinese government.
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Of these, 15 were permanent staff members, many of whom carried very high levels of security clearances.
Scientists “went back to [People’s Republic of China] to support a variety of national research and development (R&D) programs, “according to the report.
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The evaluation continues: “Of these fifteen, thirteen were recruited into PRC government talent programs; some were responsible for sponsoring PRC visiting scholars and postdoctoral researchers, and some received US government funding to sensitive research “.
Strider Technologies found that “at least one of these staff members was in possession of a US Department of Energy (DOE) ‘Q Clearance’ which allowed access to top secret confidential data and national security information.”
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The U.S. Department of Energy Inspector General’s Office said in 2015 that the lack of managerial oversight at the lab led to improper disclosures of sensitive information.
In 1999, scientist Wen Ho Lee was accused of mishandling nuclear weapons codes, but the government case fell apart and ended in a plea deal that freed the Taiwanese scientist.
The following year, two computer hard drives with top-secret nuclear material went missing, only to find themselves mysteriously behind a copier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.