China recruited top scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory to help military, report says

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China is committed in a decades-long campaign to insert and recruit allied researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, according to a report by computer security firm Strider Technologies.

The report claims that between 1987 and 2021, at least 162 scientists who went through the nuclear research laboratory came back and worked with the Chinese government.

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Of these, 15 were permanent members of staff, many of whom held very high levels of security permissions.

The scientists “went back to the [People’s Republic of China] to support a variety of national research and development (R&D) programs,” according to the report.

FILE - A sign welcomes visitors to the Los Alamos National Laboratory campus in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

FILE – A sign welcomes visitors to the Los Alamos National Laboratory campus in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
(Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

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The assessment continues: “Of these fifteen, thirteen were recruited from PRC government talent programs; some were responsible for sponsoring visiting scholars and postdoctoral scholars from the PRC, and some received funding from the U.S. government. for sensitive research.

Strider Technologies found that “at least one of these personnel held a US Department of Energy (DOE) ‘Q clearance’ allowing access to top secret restricted data and national security information.”

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General said in 2015 that a lack of management oversight at the lab led to inappropriate disclosures of sensitive information.

The Los Alamos Laboratory and the City of Los Alamos, June 14, 1999.

The Los Alamos Laboratory and the City of Los Alamos, June 14, 1999.
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In 1999, the scientist Wen Ho Lee was accused of mishandling nuclear weapons codesbut the government case fell apart and ended in a plea bargain that freed the Taiwanese-born scientist.

The following year, two computer hard drives containing top-secret nuclear-related material disappeared, only to mysteriously end up behind a photocopier.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.