Computers stolen from New Mexico's Environment Department

Thieves stole eight computers from New Mexico's Environment Department. Police said the theft occurred the night of March 27 or early March 28.

The thieves stole only PCs and left behind monitors and keyboards.

'They left the server, too,' said John Goldstein, communications director for the Environment Department.

The computers contained information on the licensing of radioactive materials at 210 businesses, but state officials said they could not determine if the culprits were terrorists or simply burglars.

The majority of the businesses are small nuclear medicine programs or construction companies that use devices such as moisture gauges containing cesium-137, a radioactive isotope, Goldstein said.

One of the office's duties is to regulate and license such devices, Goldstein said.

Although the information stored on the computers was available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act, the theft has raised suspicions because of the current heightened alert for terrorist activity.

Cesium-137 is frequently cited as one of al-Qaida's ingredients of choice for making dirty bombs.

Department officials have contacted all 210 of the companies, notifying them of the theft, and advising them to watch for suspicious activity.

Seven of the computers were manufactured by Dell Computer Corp., and one was from Gateway Inc., Goldstein said. 'They were pretty new computers,' he said.

Police suspect the computers will more likely end up in a pawnshop than in the hands of a terrorist planning to build a dirty bomb, Goldstein said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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