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82-Year-Old Nun Breaks Into Nuclear Facility, Contractors Blamed 223

Lasrick writes "Private security contractors strike again, this time at the Y-12 National Security Complex. A nun, a gardener, and a housepainter cut through three security fences to find themselves 20 feet away from highly dangerous nuclear material. And of course, only one guard has been fired (the one who arguably acted the bravest and did the right thing). A Department of Energy report (PDF) on the incident found 'troubling displays of ineptitude in responding to alarms, failures to maintain critical 2 security equipment, over reliance on compensatory measures, misunderstanding of security protocols, poor communications, and weaknesses in contract and resource management.' The contractors have been put on notice, (PDF), but they still have the contracts."
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82-Year-Old Nun Breaks Into Nuclear Facility, Contractors Blamed

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  • I'm confused... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:15PM (#41530145)

    Private security contractors strike again

    Are you implying that if the security were nationalized (ala TSA) that such ineptitude would not exist?

    Why the explicit blame on "private security contractors"? Why not fire any private company who is not doing their job and find one that can/will?

  • OK, seriously ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Infernal Device ( 865066 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:20PM (#41530217)

    Why in the name of Oppenheimer did they fire the one guy who actually did his job, when everyone above and around him appeared to fail pretty seriously at theirs?

    Admittedly, he didn't shoot anyone, which he was apparently entitled to do, but at the same time, he actually stopped any further mischief and was the only person (aside from the protesters) who didn't embarrass the whole nation.

    It's a pity Joseph Heller isn't around to write his life story or something.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:26PM (#41530323)

    Because the honest and competent man is the safest one to fire -- the incompetent and dishonest ones usually got the job in the first place by knowing someone powerful or having dirt on someone.

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krojack ( 575051 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:30PM (#41530379)

    TSA servers the purpose, it was designed to serve, very well. If the TSA were to be put in-charge of nuclear material and made clear of its purpose, I am sure it will do well.

    Say what? So you're telling me that they won't steal nuclear material and when caught try to blame it on the wife? []

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:31PM (#41530389)

    Private security contractors strike again

    Are you implying that if the security were nationalized (ala TSA) that such ineptitude would not exist?

    Uh, yeah. Or at least that's what the report claims somewhere around page 6. Makes sense to me!

    Thus, physical security systems and security personnel were managed by completely different organizations. The fractured management structure appeared to have led to conflicting priorities

    Now a nationalized or centralized management or whatever you want to call it can be utterly incompetent for entirely different reasons, look at the TSA. But it wouldn't have conflicting priorities unless they were dumb enough to intentionally bake that into the cake.

    Thats the problem with "just give it to the private sector". There's a zillion private sector companies and they often (or at least occasionally) don't work together very well.

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:35PM (#41530429) Homepage

    um... if security is so lax, why aren't all those terrorists out there taking advantage of these security lapses? something doesn't add up here.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:40PM (#41530509)

    Why in the name of Oppenheimer did they fire the one guy who actually did his job, when everyone above and around him appeared to fail pretty seriously at theirs?

    Young grasshopper, when you have learned why managers punish people for bringing mistakes to the attention of their supervisors, it will be time for you to join the workforce. I've been fired several times for bringing security faults through appropriate channels -- in truth, management doesn't want to know about security problems and punish those who point them out, because once pointed out, plausible deniability goes out the window. You're making it their problem, and if there's no budget for said problem your paycheck becomes the budget for solving it. It makes them look bad and holds back their promotion opportunities -- and so while you may do the right thing, it's almost always a bad career move.

    Politics. It'll fuck you every time.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:41PM (#41530533) Journal

    Why in the name of Oppenheimer did they fire the one guy who actually did his job, when everyone above and around him appeared to fail pretty seriously at theirs?

    If he's the only person doing his job then that means his superiors that fired him also were not doing their job correctly -- their correct job being to fire the people who had failed through inaction. So, in order to maintain his status of being the only person who did his job, he would have to be fired otherwise his superiors might be misconstrued as doing their job correctly. This is all very simple Dilbert 101.

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmstar ( 114746 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:45PM (#41530585)

    I would also argue that various branches or sections of government don't work together very well either.

    Corporate bureaucracy tends to be deranged in worse ways than state bureaucracy.

    Modern, western countries can do very well in comparison. there is a lot to be improved, of course, but worship of the private sector is not warranted in this respect.

  • Not Surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:53PM (#41530717)
    And this is why I heavily oppose leaving matters of security, safety, or health completely in the hands of one or more private companies. These three areas are rarely ever cost-effective and they're not meant to be. The reason we have these services in the first place is because people feel that they are valuable to the well-being of individuals as well as society as a whole, not because there is necessarily an economic benefit. I'm not opposed to having private companies involved in these three areas, but I believe there needs to be strict standards on the quality of service they provide, strong government oversight to make sure they're operating up to those standards, and repercussions for failing to meet the standards.
  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaqpaq9254 ( 1754264 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @04:13PM (#41531015)
    Actually, the point for me is, rather, not that nationalized security would be better, per se (although I think ThatsMyNick's point is well taken), but that the constant calls for privatizing things that shouldn't be privatized is really ridiculous. Companies exist to make money, and they do that by keeping costs low wherever they can, even if it means low beyond the point of reason...beyond the point of doing a good job. True, I suppose the company would eventually be fired, but only after a huge mistake (as we see here). When we are talking about national security, and a few other things I can think of, that isn't such a good idea.
  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @04:14PM (#41531019) Homepage Journal

    Why not fire any private company who is not doing their job and find one that can/will?

    The problem you get is that there is a seriously limited selection of 'private' companies that are qualified for guarding a nuclear plant. There's a semi-limited number of people capable of it as well, given that they have to be willing to work for decent(but not high) pay, while being able to get a security clearance(and handle automatic weapons) and meet the physical requirements(shooting accuracy, fitness, etc...). You're pretty much restricted to ex-military.

    Having some knowledge of government type contracting, it's been my experience that you can have the contractor change, but the people in the contract seats stay the same - with the loss of the contract, the original contractor no longer needs the people, thus lays them off(excess). The NEW contractor needs people to fulfill the contract, and wait - there's people XYZ with years of experience in the role, in the local area, has the necessary clearance($$$), etc... Hired!

    The contracted employees themselves have to brush off their resume and re-interview for their job, but it's normally a formality. They might get ~2-3 weeks of 'vacation' where they get unemployment, and a day or two of orientation on how their new employer(the actual contractor).

    After all that, I have to say that I'd rather keep the function in house. Reasons:
    1. It's not a wide field, more of a specialist position with only a couple hundred plants in the states.
    2. It's a continuous stable requirement. Contracts are for temporary things(like renovating a building, upgrading a network, etc...)

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @04:22PM (#41531145) Journal

    Corporate bureaucracy tends to be deranged in worse ways than state bureaucracy..

    ...says the man who has never had to work with the VA Medical System, the DMV, etc...

    Half-jokes aside, there is one diff between a deranged corporation and a deranged government department: You can tell the deranged corporate department to piss off, or take them to court if their actions warrant it. Try doing that to a governmental entity and see how far that gets you.

    Even if your hypothesis were 100% correct in every aspect, a half-deranged government bureau is a hell of a lot more dangerous to individual rights and freedoms than a completely apeshit company.

    Something about having the force of law backing up the mental trouble that makes it at least two orders of magnitude more disturbing, truth be told.

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @06:04PM (#41532119)
    It wasn't that long ago that the US military used to secure these sites, rather than Joe's Security Guards And BBQ Pit. I'd rather see the grunts doing something boring though useful here at home rather than getting shot at somewhere they never should have been sent.
  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @06:37PM (#41532409)

    When I read TFA, I interpreted "contractor" to mean the contractor operating the Y-12 facility, not the rentacops. Y-12 is run by B&W Y12, a partnership of the Babcock & Wilcox Company and Bechtel Corporation. They probably don't employ guards directly, but employ some private security outfit to provide them. I thought the criticism was leveled at B&W for the management failure, rather than at the rentacops.

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mianne ( 965568 ) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @02:36AM (#41535269)

    Not to mention, the actual rank and file guards are probably the ones least responsible for allowing this security breach to progress as far as it did. They are trained to respond to the alarms and/or suspicious activity observed on monitors. They would not be responsible for ensuring the cameras and alarm systems are in proper working order. They probably are supposed to report systems which are not working at all or are malfunctioning.

    When equipment has been offline for months or years despite numerous reports, you can expect them to become demoralized--that their reports are falling on deaf ears. Moreover, as TFS notes, the lone officer who put his life at risk to apprehended the intruders, was summarily terminated. You can bet that any guard who dared going over their immediate supervisor's head to see that the alarm and CCTV systems were fixed would also be sacked.

    Blaming the guards in this case is exactly like blaming the miners for a mine collapse or explosion. In both cases it is the company owners, and their federal regulator lapdogs who are clearly responsible. These guards may very well all be laid off/terminated by G4S and then immediately rehired by Pinkerton Govt. Services or another similar firm qualified to secure nuclear facilities. You can also bet on a lucrative contract being given to fortify intrusion prevention and detection systems and that everything will be working in top order for the next couple of years--It's what happens after that, that matters.

    As cameras begin to fail, as alarm points begin to malfunction and cause endless false alarms; will these issues continue to be promptly corrected, or will they end up on the back burner as such maintenance requests get mired in a byzantine bureaucratic system and disagreements surface as to whether the security contractors must pick up the tab, or if it's to be reimbursed by the fed. Meanwhile the guards will continue to see that being the squeaky wheel gets you fired--being a whistleblower gets you arrested, and it will again be safer and less stressful to spend your entire shift in the breakroom than carry out the perimeter patrols every 15 minutes.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"