SANTA FE, N.M. – A former nuclear weapons lab contract worker took home not only classified information on a portable computer storage drive, but also about 200 pages of printed documents, her lawyer said Thursday.
The confirmation of the papers follows a watchdog group's report that an internal memo from the Los Alamos National Laboratory indicates the amount of classified information found at the woman's home is substantially larger than first thought.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico, an activist organization, reported that the memo appeared to be a summary of a briefing on the security breach, though the group said it could not verify the memo's authenticity.
Two officials with the federal agency that oversees the nation's nuclear weapons program said there were "significant errors" in the memo but did not reject it outright. The officials, who work for the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, spoke anonymously because of the ongoing investigation into the breach.
They said they could not confirm the briefing referred to by the author of the memo, which Nuclear Watch said it obtained through an intermediary.
"If true, this summary indicates that a very serious and compromising breach has occurred; perhaps the most serious" in the troubled lab's history, Nuclear Watch said in a news release.
Police seized three portable computer storage drives — called flash drives, among other names — and the papers Oct. 17 during a drug raid at the home of Jessica Quintana, the contract worker.
Quintana has not been charged. A man who was renting a room at her home was jailed on drug and probation charges.
Her lawyer, Stephen Aarons, told The Associated Press that the material included copies of front pages of various documents from the lab. Quintana, an archivist, had planned to use them to create an index of items she had converted to an electronic format, he said.
Aarons also said that one of the three portable computer storage drives contained lab-related material, but that the information wasn't transferred to another computer.
"It was downloaded, but it was never uploaded," Aarons said, adding that Quintana did not show the material to anyone.
The 22-year-old archivist took the material home in August because she faced a work deadline to create the index, then forgot about the documents, he said.
"Her intent was to destroy the hard copies, and she never did it," Aarons said.
Nuclear Watch said the memo on the security briefing at the lab said Quintana had a level of security clearance that would have given her access to documents that could have contained information on how to bypass the authorization process for using nuclear weapons.
"She doesn't know anything about nuclear weapons," Aarons responded. "She knows how to scan documents."
The Energy Department and the Nuclear Security Administration declined Thursday to discuss the scope of the security breach, citing the investigation.
But an official with knowledge of the government probe acknowledged there were "several hundred" pages of classified documents discovered during the drug raid in addition to the classified material found in three computer "thumb" storage devices.
"It is a sizable amount," said the individual, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is under way. He declined to characterize the documents and said the exact number had not been determined.
Said Energy Department spokesman Craig Stevens: "We're taking it (the security breach) very seriously." He added that Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman "was personally disturbed" that classified documents turned up during a drug raid.
"We want to know how this could happen," Stevens said.