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Nuclear Weapons Plant Guards Accused
of Cheating in Terrorist Exercise

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
February 2, 2004

Security guards who stopped four simulated terrorist attacks at a Tennessee nuclear weapons plant had been warned in advance, undermining the results, the Energy Department's watchdog office said.

The surprising successes by guards at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant last summer in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, sparked an internal investigation. It determined that at least two guards defending the mock attacks had been allowed to look at computer simulations the day before the attacks took place.

The Energy Department's inspector general, Gregory H. Friedman, declared the exercises "tainted and unreliable." He said each mock attack cost as much as $85.000 to stage, and he urged the department to consider his conclusions when awarding contracting fees for Wackenhut Corp., which employs guards at Oak Ridge.

The inspector general said guards in another mock attack in late 2000 or early 2001 were improperly told which building would be attacked, the exact number of attackers and where a diversion was being staged.

Investigators also said managers substituted their best security guards for others scheduled to work the day of attacks; standby guards would sometimes be armed and used to bolster existing security guards on duty.

In other cases, security guards disabled laser sensors they wore to determine whether they received a simulated gunshot. Guards removed batteries, deliberately installed batteries backward and covered sensors with tape, mud of Vaseline so they wouldn't operate properly.

Investigators said those claims were based on interviews with current and former guards, which they described as "credible and compelling." But they acknowledged they could find no documentary evidence to support the claims of previous cheating.

"There's no point in doing them if you have people who are going to cheat," said Richard Clarke, a former senior White House counterterrorism official.

"Thats ridiculous. It kind of defeats the whole point of having these tests."

A broader investigation uncovered more evidence of cheating during mock attacks against U.S. nuclear plants in the past two decades. Results from such simulations are commonly classified for national security reasons.