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Nuclear Lab Whistleblower Case Moves Forward

In 2013 a contract employee at the Los Alamos National Laboratory found himself stripped of his security clearance and suspended from his job shortly after he published an article arguing the benefits of getting rid of nuclear weapon stockpiles. This month he begins mediation with the lab after his second whistleblower claim was accepted by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Dr. James Doyle worked at the Los Alamos lab, one of the laboratories in the Department of Energy nuclear complex, for 17 years. Prior to submitting his article for publication, he had it reviewed by a classification analyst at the lab, met with the director of the security office to address any concerns, and made it clear in the article that he was providing his own opinion as an individual and not as an Energy Department employee.

But just two days after the article was published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Dr. Doyle was accused of disclosing classified information. Lab officials searched his personal computer, retroactively classified the article, and suspended his security clearance. Dr. Doyle was understandably confused and filed a complaint alleging that lab officials were retaliating against him for expressing unpopular opinions in the article. After filing the complaint, Dr. Doyle was fired from his position at the lab and his whistleblower complaint was rejected. While the Department maintains that his termination was due to budget cuts, Dr. Doyle believes it was due to his push-back against the retroactive classification of his article.

Several nuclear watchdog groups, including the Project On Government Oversight, rallied around Dr. Doyle, sending a letter in 2014 to the Secretary of Energy and the Inspector General urging a review of his case. Dr. Doyle filed a second complaint because he was fired before his first complaint was resolved. The Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor reported last week in an article titled “NNSA Accepts Second Whistleblower Claim From Laid-Off Los Alamos Analyst” (behind a paywall) that this claim was accepted in late 2014 and that Dr. Doyle began mediation with the lab this month. This is a step in the right direction, and one step further than his first complaint ever got.

By: Lydia Dennett
Investigator, POGO

lydia dennett Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia works on safety and security of nuclear weapons and power facilities, foreign lobbying and influence, and works with Department of Veterans Affairs whistleblowers.

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Related Content: Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight, Los Alamos National Lab, Overclassification

Authors: Lydia Dennett

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