I’d managed to remain in the lab’s good graces for more than a decade and a half, but whistleblowing wasn’t tolerated. And those who dared to were destined to be driven out of the institution, litigated into bankruptcy, or worse. Official resistance to resolving my complaint lasted years. It hadn’t mattered how much my torment had cost taxpayers in terms of legal expenses, so long as the University of California (UC), the lab’s parent, was spared any liability.
The university provided a facade of academic legitimacy that the military-industrial complex used to its own advantage.
Because of this role, protecting UC was akin to preserving the status quo. That was job number one. And as for the US Department of Energy (DOE), which was supposed to be administering the federal contract that enabled UC to “manage” LANL, it was the toothless guard dog of taxpayer interests. The department hardly ever barked, much less bit, when it came to the university or the federal labs under its watch.
My whistleblower complaint, filed in 2005, had exposed significant shortcomings in LANL leadership, including managerial malfeasance that enabled fraud, waste, and abuse to occur. A related revelation was the mysterious death of the deputy director—the laboratory’s second-in-command, and whether he might be posthumously implicated in a procurement fraud that two internal sleuths—Glenn Walp and Steve Doran—were investigating in 2002. Both were seasoned law enforcement professionals, hired by LANL in response to a congressional mandate. But within the year they’d been fired for refusing to ignore problems they’d uncovered at the lab.
It had been six years since I’d filed my whistleblower retaliation complaint and now, all of a sudden, institutional leadership’s determination to make an example of me had softened. A private investigator’s report was the reason, for within days after it was introduced into evidence my claims were being resolved. Settling had shielded officials from having to testify in court regarding the subject of the investigation—circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of the deputy director.
“Dysfunctional and politically untouchable” was how Senator Pete Domenici, our senior US senator from New Mexico, described LANL in a July 25, 2004, Los Angeles Times article. It wasn’t the institution I’d envisioned growing up in Northern New Mexico.