Public kept in dark over LANL

SANTA FE, N.M. — Our nation’s founders understood the importance of a free press, one unencumbered by political and economic interests that benefit by keeping the general public uninformed and misled.

Indeed, the free flow of ideas is a cornerstone of our democracy for, without information, we become hostage to the influence of a privileged few. President Eisenhower, in his 1961 farewell speech to the nation, warned us about this and in the process coined the phrase “military-industrial complex.”

Charles Montaño.

Charles Montaño.

Last April, I published a book about this club of well-moneyed interests titled “Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths” and, to my dismay, few news outlets are willing to report about it.

The book exposes a procurement fraud investigation gone awry at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in 2003, where two highly qualified criminal investigators were terminated in the middle of that effort, 11 months into their tenure as LANL employees, thus keeping them from discovering that the perpetrator of the fraud and the lab’s deputy director were planning a venture in which the former would be running a hunting operation on a ranch owned by the latter. At issue is a decommissioned cold-war bunker, located on LANL property, found containing approximately $350,000 worth of stolen merchandise associated with hunting and ranching.

What is newsworthy about all this now is that, in May, I hand-delivered a letter to Washington, D.C., officials, including Rep. Ben Ray Luján, and Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, jointly signed by the two fired criminal investigators and myself, alleging that the derailing of that investigation served to prevent the discovery of this connection to the lab’s second-in-command, thus keeping a congressional committee, conducting a related hearing at the time, uninformed as well.

Signatories to that letter are Glenn Walp, Ph.D. – former police commissioner for the state of Pennsylvania; Steve Doran – a former police chief; and myself – former director of fraud and special audits for the N.M. Office of the State Auditor.

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In that letter, we request intervention by the U.S. Justice Department, not only because taxpayers pay dearly for the fraud, waste and abuse so prevalent in government contracting with corporate members of the military-industrial community, but also because Los Alamos is responsible for the processing, storage and disposal of plutonium, arguably the most toxic substance known.

Therefore, while it may be desirable for some, due to LANL’s $2.5 billion dollar a year budget, to shield the laboratory from controversy, it’s unconscionable to do so at the expense of those who dare to report managerial malfeasance. Because, when all is said and done, we’re all at risk when we’re being kept in the dark.

Charles “Chuck” Montaño is former employee of the lab and the state auditor’s office, an author and a resident of Santa Fe.

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