Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Los Alamos Physicist's Property Seized By FBI

Federal agents have seized six computers, two cameras, two cell phones and hundreds of files from a Los Alamos, N.M., physicist who for two decades has criticized the government's nuclear agenda as misguided.

An FBI spokesman in Albuquerque, Darrin E. Jones, said that the action Monday was part of "an ongoing federal investigation" and that he could provide no details.

The physicist, P. Leonardo Mascheroni, said he was told that the seizures were part of a criminal investigation into possible nuclear espionage. Mascheroni also declared his innocence.

If I were a real spy," he said Tuesday in a telephone interview, "I would have left the country a long time ago."

Mascheroni was laid off from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1988 and has ever since championed an innovative type of laser fusion, which seeks to harness the energy that powers the sun, the stars and hydrogen bombs.

In recent years, he has repeatedly gone to Congress to question the management of the nation's nuclear laboratories and arsenal, saying his laser was needed to ensure weapon reliability. In theory, its tiny blasts could test arms dependability, eliminating the need for underground explosions.

The secrets of hydrogen bombs and laser fusion can be similar, and the federal investigation appears to center on whether Mascheroni broke federal rules in discussing his proposed laser with a man who called himself a representative of the Venezuelan government.

Venezuela has begun exploring for uranium, but President Hugo Chavez has denied any interest in developing nuclear arms.

Federal and laboratory authorities have previously investigated him twice for security violations, Mascheroni said, adding that each time he was exonerated. He said he saw the disruptive episodes as harassment for his outspoken views.

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