Mystery Of The
Nuclear Whistleblower
Vicious Assault On Ex-Employee Of Los Alamos
Weapons Lab The Latest In Series Of Unsolved Incidents

By Mark Townsend in New York
The Observer - UK
It had been the worst of blind dates; the no-show. Eventually, just before 2am, Tommy Hook conceded defeat and slunk away from the gaudy strip bar. As he traipsed across the neon-bathed parking lot of Cheeks nightclub, he would have wondered what became of his non-committal partner.
Hours earlier Hook, 52, had received a call from a fellow employee at the Los Alamos National Laboratory imploring him to head to the Santa Fe nightspot and hover by the bar. An excited, hushed voice had promised to corroborate Hook's explosive findings into massive financial irregularities at the birthplace of the nuclear bomb and proposed site for the Bush administration's new generation of atomic weapons.
Instead it is the brutal events that followed Hook's short walk that have plunged the top secret home of the US weapons project into fresh controversy.
The attack was ferocious; a group of up to six men stamped on the head of Hook, a former internal auditor at Los Alamos, with such intensity that footprint marks were still visible on his swollen face days later. A witness claimed that without the intervention of the club's bouncer, Hook would have been murdered. His wife Susan later alleged that the assailants told her husband during the beating that 'if you know what's good for you, you'll keep your mouth shut'.
The attack last week came 48 hours before US government investigators were scheduled to arrive at Hook's home and scrutinise audits detailing financial irregularities amounting to millions of taxpayer dollars at the New Texas laboratory. Now he has been silenced.
His shattered jaw remained wired shut throughout his 30th wedding anniversary on Friday. The incident at Cheeks has reopened a trail of unsolved murders, harassment and ongoing death threats that continues to plague America's controversial nuclear weapons programme.
The Observer has tracked down former whistleblowers and US congressional investigators who claim that people are risking serious harm by exposing flaws in the US atomic project at a time when the Bush administration is intent on resuming nuclear weapons production for the first time in 15 years. The attack has even wider ramifications, coinciding with new evidence revealing Britain's close involvement with the Los Alamos laboratory.
Peter Stockton spent last Thursday scrutinising the Cheeks car park for clues. Claims of a row over a parking accident and an altercation at the bar were soon dismissed. Neither Hook's wallet nor his red Subaru sedan was stolen. Stockton, a former congressional investigator, was deeply troubled by the similarities of the Hook beating and a case that has haunted him for almost 30 years.
In 1974, he investigated the death of Karen Silkwood, the nuclear company employee who died in an unexplained one-car crash many suspect was deliberately caused by her employers. Having spent months gathering evidence of corruption and contamination at the Kerr McGee site, Silkwood drove to meet a New York Times journalist with the proof. She never arrived. Subsequent investigations found that tracks were consistent with her car being forced off the road. The evidence that Silkwood was carrying with her has never been found. Her story became a Hollywood movie
Hook too, was about to expose allegations of misconduct against the powerful nuclear lobby. He had been scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this month on his allegations. A first meeting with government investigators was arranged for last Wednesday.
Stockton said that the public's largely favourable reaction to the recent unveiling of Deep Throat's identity in the Watergate affair was unusual. 'Whistleblowers have been harassed or fired. It is still a dangerous game, particularly in the nuclear sector', he told The Observer.
Greg Mellor, who has been leading the Los Alamos Study Group for 13 years, has observed the mood in the remote outpost turning increasingly belligerent against those prepared to speak out about goings-on at the laboratory. 'A lot of people have been threatened, including myself,' he said. 'Los Alamos used to be full of liberal scientists, it was predominantly democratic with a lot of partying. Now it is very conservative. People feel that if you take a swipe at the labs you are taking a swipe at them.'
One Los Alamos employee created a political storm recently after being sacked for exposing large-scale theft at the lab. That followed the unsolved death in 1999 of Lee Scott Hall who had uncovered a serious flaw in the troubled £700m weapons testing programme at the Lawrence Livermore laboratories, close ally of its Los Alamos counterpart. The 54-year-old had been stabbed 10 times in his bedroom. No motive was established for the murder nor was anything stolen from his home. No one was ever arrested.
This weekend allies of Hook will continue wondering how his attackers remain at large. However, no allegations have been forwarded that anyone connected with the laboratory or the US nuclear programme ordered a hit on Hook. A spokesman for the lab denounced the beating as 'senseless and brutal'.
Whoever was responsible, indications suggest that Hook remains intent on testifying. His evidence threatens not only to embarrass the White House, but ultimately Whitehall as well.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005,6903,1504617,00.html



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