An "all-hands" employee meeting conducted at the National Ignition Facility.
Last week KRON-TV reporter Mark Jones aired a segment on the strange murder of Lee Mercer Scott Hall, 54, a senior associate draftsman employed at the national laboratory for 25 years.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory quickly responded by issuing a news release dated February 14, 2000. It was carried on the internet and stated in part:
"During the past few days, there have been a number of media inquiries on the possible connection between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the National Ignition Facility and the death in October 1999 of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employee Lee Hall."
"The Hall murder is a police investigation. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is cooperating fully with all law enforcement agencies involved in the issue. However, it is our understanding that there are a number of theories or personal scenarios that could have led to Mr. Hall's death and his work on the National Ignition Facility."
This press release concluded by advising those who desire more information of the investigation to contact the City of Livermore Police Chief Ron Scott at (925) 371-4710.
The same day the press release was issued, lab Director Bruce Tarter called the "all-hands" meeting indicating that "he felt it was time to make employees that we did not appreciate the allegations, according to lab spokeswoman Susan Houghton. During this meeting KRON's news segment was rebroadcast to the lab workers on a large screen in the auditorium. Present to speak with the employees was Tarter and George, director of the lab's laser programs. Lab legal counsel Jan Tulk, legal counsel for the lab, also discussed the investigation and the media's inquiries into the Hall's murder. Employees criticized news coverage of the on-going investigation.
The following day, Tuesday, February 15, 2000, the San Francisco Chronicle published a lengthy, well-written article authored by staff writer Mike Weiss. Quoting from that article:
"[Livermore Police Department Detective Sgt. Scott] Robertson and his partner, Det. Charlie Garrison, have eliminated some possibilities yet run into many dead ends in the life of the design engineer, who made no toll calls in all of 1999 and sent no personal e-mails, officials say. They have recently focused on his work but are frustrated at what they say is a lack of cooperation by the lab."
"We are not getting the whole picture from the lab," said Garrison."
Tuesday, February 15, 2000, Livermore Police Chief also issued a statement directed to the "media and public speculation about motives surrounding the Hall homicide" saying that "there is a strong inference that the police investigation is somehow being deliberately hampered by the security structure of the lab. This inference is inaccurate."
The two Livermore Police Officers investigating the Hall murder exhibited excellent investigative techniques. They are asking the right questions of the right people. Quotes attributed to these officers in the San Francisco Chronicle were like a breath of fresh air; readers felt as though they were men who would follow the leads in this murder and not be influenced by political pressure. The outrage expressed by the national laboratory should not be allowed to curtail a thorough investigation. Politics and power have no place interfering with the pursuit of this killer. In is hoped that Police Chief will encourage these two men and not bow to the pressure of lab officials.
The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has a history of using its national political power to cover up serious problems uncovered at the lab. Reporters investigating everything from an employee drug scandal to employees caught with child pornography have been intimidated and stifled when they run into the "Berlin Wall" that is the laboratory. Those in charge of the national facility have lied and covered about their employees education and background to the myth of their "Star Wars" projects.
An article by Paul Richter, writing for the Los Angeles Times, on February 25, 2000 reported:
"The Pentagon's top weapons tester warned Monday that the Defense Department is moving too hastily toward a recommendation on whether the United States should deploy a national missile shield, and he urged his superiors to take more time."
"Philip Coyle, director of operations and testing, said that although the development program has been repeatedly delayed, Defense Secretary William Cohen is still scheduled to deliver his recommendation to President Clinton in June."
"The timetable is putting 'undue pressure' on the program's managers "to meet an artificial decision point in the development process." he said in an annual report to Congress and Cohen. He warned that imposing such deadlines "has historically resulted in a negative effect of virtually every troubled (Defense Department) development program."
One can only imagine the pressure on the program's managers who are now defending the lab's credibility in the murder of Senior Associate Draftsman Lee Hall.
Virginia McCullough © 2/16/00