Ex-Los Alamos lab employee's retaliation claim headed to DOE Inspector General - Albuquerque Journal

Ex-Los Alamos lab employee’s retaliation claim headed to DOE Inspector General

The case of James E. Doyle, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who claims he was fired in retaliation for publishing an article critical of nuclear proliferation policies since the Cold War, is headed to the federal Department of Energy’s Inspector General for review.

Notice of the IG review came as part of rejection of Doyle’s petition for DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz to review his retaliation complaint. DOE informed Doyle’s lawyer today that Doyle’s appeal asking for “Secretarial Review” had been denied.

James Doyle
James Doyle

“That said, the Department’s senior leadership takes the issue you raise seriously, and will not tolerate retaliation or dismissals of employees or contractors for the views expressed in scholarly publications,” says the letter from Poli A. Marmolejos, director of DOE’s Office of Hearings and Appeals.

“Accordingly, Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Lt. Gen. Frank Koltz, USAF (Ret), has written to the Department’s Inspector General to request an examination into whether Mr. Doyle’s termination resulted, in whole or in part, from the publication of his article in question or the views expressed in it.”

Doyle, of Santa Fe, technically a contractor who served as a nuclear safeguards and security specialist at LANL, says national security officials reviewed his article and cleared it prior to publication, but it was later determined that it allegedly contained classified material.

He was told his firing July 8 was part of a layoff program. A LANL spokesperson last month declined to comment.

Doyle, who worked at LANL 17 years, filed a complaint of retaliation with the National Nuclear Security Administration in November. The Office of Hearings and Appeals upheld denial of his claim in June, shortly before he lost his LANL job.

Doyle, 55, a political scientist whose job was part of LANL’s nonproliferation division, wrote an article titled “Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?” It appeared in the February 2013 issue “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.

Today’s letter from Marmolejos notes that Doyle argued that “improperly classified” information can be a violation of law and regulationl. But Marmolejos asserts that Doyle “fell short” of presenting a protected disclosure of classified information.

Doyle’s termination from the lab is also not grounds for upholding his appeal, the letter states. The letter says that Doyle’s being let go from the lab “does not bear on the correctness of the determination” that Doyle had “failed to allege an actionable protected disclosure.”

Doyle’s case has drawn attention around the country. The president of the Federation of American Scientists wrote a letter urging DOE secretary Moniz to intervene and ascertain that Doyle was “is in no way penalized for his good faith efforts to participate in the national dialogue over nuclear policy.”

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