SANTA FE, N.M. — This story has been changed since its original publication to correct the first name of James E. Doyle
A long-time employee at Los Alamos National Laboratory was fired after portions of an article he wrote for a British nonprofit journal were later determined to be classified material, even after national security officials had reviewed the article and deemed it unclassified, according to a news report published Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity.
James E. Doyle, 55, a nuclear safeguards and security specialist at LANL’s nonproliferation division, wrote an article titled “Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?” that was a critique of nuclear proliferation policies since the Cold War.
It was published in February 2013 in “Survival,” which is published by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies.
The article states that “the world must reject the myths and expose the risks of the ideology of nuclear deterrence if it is to meet the challenges of the Twenty-first Century.” Los Alamos is the birthplace of the atomic bomb and one of two labs in the United States where the design of nuclear weapons is conducted.
The Center for Public Integrity, or CPI, is a nonprofit investigative journalism organization based in Washington, D.C.
LANL would not comment on the matter, sending the Journal a short statement by email that read “We do not publicly discuss the specifics of personnel matters. Likewise, it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics surrounding security classification.” Calls to the National Nuclear Security Administration were not returned Thursday.
Doyle also did not return messages left on his Santa Fe home and his cell phone.
The CPI article by Douglas Birch states that Doyle, officially a contractor who had worked at LANL for 17 years, first had his pay docked, lost his security clearance and was ultimately fired July 8. That was the day after CPI made inquires with the National Nuclear Security Administration about the controversial article.
Doyle was told he was being let go as part of a layoff program.
“But he says he believes the sudden firing was instead part of a Washington-inspired campaign of retribution for his refusal to stay on message and support the lab’s central mission, namely its continued development and production of nuclear arms, at a cost of almost $2 billion per year there,” the CPI article states.
Survival’s editor, Dana Allin, is quoted as saying Doyle’s article was a “think piece.”
“This was driven by a keen understanding of concerns about nuclear deterrence. It’s the kind of thing we publish all the time.”
Jay Coghlan, director of the watchdog group Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said Doyle’s article was reposted on its website about a year ago and remains on the Nuclear Watch website.
He called Doyle’s dismissal “a clear political firing and abuse of classification procedures” in a statement issued Thursday.
He demanded that federal officials reprimand the lab, reinstate Doyle, fire those responsible for his dismissal and cut award fees for Los Alamos National Security, the contractor that runs the lab, because of “chronically poor performance and leadership.”
Coghlan says that Doyle was let go because LANL didn’t like his message and sought to kill it through retroactively deciding his article contained classified information that is not supposed be released publicly.
“Any quick reading shows it had no information whatsoever about nuclear weapons designs and materials that would merit classification,” it said. “The study is instead a 28-page narrative argument by a nationally recognized nonproliferation expert for eliminating the (nuclear weapons) stockpile, while citing the aspirations of both Presidents Reagan and Obama to abolish nuclear weapons.”
More details are revealed in a decision by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, which in June rejected a retaliation claim filed by Doyle.
It says that Doyle claimed the information he used in his article had been reviewed by LANL’s classification office prior to its publication and had been authorized for “unlimited public release.”
But after the article was published by “Survival,” Dan Gerth, the chief classification officer, determined that some of the information disclosed was classified.
A meeting was then held to resolve the disagreement and three other derivative classifiers sided with Doyle. But Gerth’s opinion was the one that mattered and his became LANL’s official determination.
Gerth’s decision was later upheld by classification officials at DOE and the Department of State.
The CIP report suggests that the hammer may have come down on Doyle from Washington.
Shortly after his article was published, his supervisor told him that senior managers wanted to see copies of all his publications.
When he asked why, he was told that someone at the House Armed Services Committee wanted to see them, but didn’t tell him who or why.
Later that day, he was visited by two members of the Security Inquiries Team, who informed him that the article published in Survival contained classified information. His work and home computers were also inspected by computer experts on the security team and purged drafts of the CPI report.
The CPI article concludes with a quote from Doyle saying that now that he has left the lab, his motivation is improving his country’s national security policy.
“And there’s nothing conflicting in advocating the elimination of nuclear weapons and maintaining the security of the United States,” he said.