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National Public Radio
Talk of the Nation

June 22, 2000

Balancing the Need for Security and Open Scientific Practices
in the Wake of the Most Recent Security Lapse
at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Anchor: Juan Williams


WILLIAMS: Welcome back to TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Juan Williams.

Today we're talking about what many see as the culture clash between scientists and security officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory. My guest is Steve Aftergood, senior research analyst for the Federation of American Scientists. Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION, Steve.

Mr. STEVE AFTERGOOD (Federation of American Scientists): Hi, Juan.

WILLIAMS: If you want to join the conversation, please do. Our number is (800) 989-8255. That's (800) 989-TALK.

Steve Aftergood, are American scientists, especially those at Los Alamos, feeling that somehow that their rights to exchange information, to do the work that they do collaboratively, is being infringed upon by this tremendous security concern on the part of the American government?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: You know, Juan, I don't think so. I think that concern has been exaggerated and overblown. Certainly openness is part of the scientific tradition in general. Scientists depend on open publication and peer review and the cross-fertilization of ideas across different disciplines. That's how science advances. But I don't think that that's true within the nuclear weapons program. Most people who go to work on nuclear weapons have long since made peace with the idea that they need to keep the nation's secrets, and they do.

WILLIAMS: Well, in fact, I think lots of people were surprised to learn that during the course of the Manhattan Project the federal government was actually putting secret bugs, microphones, into scientists' homes so they could listen to them, and there's some aspects of those investigations that are still not known. So there has been sort of a history to this. But you're saying today, given the number of scientists who work at Los Alamos, you believe most scientists are content with the idea that they're going to have to deal with security.

Mr. AFTERGOOD: If scientists couldn't keep a secret, then all of our nuclear secrets would long since have passed out into the open.

WILLIAMS: Now what will happen, do you believe, as this investigation goes forward? Is it going to put a chill on the willingness of scientists to become involved with the nuclear program?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: I think that has already happened. I think there is an atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia that makes the laboratories a very unattractive place. We've already seen calls for boycotts by Asian-American scientists, and in the meantime the average age of our nuclear weapons scientists is quite high. It's over 50. I think it's around 55. A lot of these people are going to be retiring soon. We are not replenishing them with younger scientists, and the whole complex is in trouble from that point of view. Unfortunately, these investigations only aggravate the problem.

WILLIAMS: Now you just heard the deputy Energy secretary state say that he feels that, in fact, there's no reason for concern at this point, the investigation by the FBI is ongoing, but that there may not be even a reason for criminal charges to be brought. Are you content with what he had to say?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: I think he's taken a very rational and balanced approach to the subject. I'm actually surprised that the Department of Energy has a much stronger case to make than they have made. The department, back in the days of Secretary Hazel O'Leary, started a process known as the higher fences initiative. It was a proposal to upgrade or increase the classification of some of our most sensitive secrets from the secret level to the top secret level. They've been pushing this for years, and it is the Pentagon that has said, 'No, we don't want to do that.' So DOE really has a good story to tell, that surprisingly was not brought out at yesterday's hearing.

WILLIAMS: Well, you mean, DOE under the Clinton administration has a better story to tell.

Mr. AFTERGOOD: That's right.

WILLIAMS: And you think in part, then, some of the responsibility has to be laid the feet of the Bush administration.

Mr. AFTERGOOD: Some of the responsibility--there's plenty of responsibility to go around. But the Department's efforts to increase the classification of the most sensitive secrets have been blocked, in particular, by the Pentagon, as recently as six months ago.

WILLIAMS: Why is that?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: They argue that it would be too expensive, because they would require new security clearances for top secret access, they might require some new facilities to store top secret material and also they would lose some--there would be operational costs. It would be harder take this stuff out into the field if it were classified top secret. And remember, it's needed for emergency response, so they need it to be as accessible as possible.

WILLIAMS: Steve Aftergood, why are some scientists reluctant to allow lie detector tests to take place?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: Many scientists are reluctant to under go polygraph testing because the procedure is intrusive, it's degrading, it is scientifically unproven and it is prone to error. You may recall that Secretary of State George Shultz refused to be polygraphed during the Reagan administration. He said he would resign sooner than be polygraphed. And it's not because he was a scientist, but because the whole procedure is questionable and really scientifically unfounded.

WILLIAMS: What are the right questions that we as Americans should be asking about this episode and the Wen Ho Lee episode, from your perspective, from the scientists' perspective?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: Some of the questions--first, to put things in perspective is what is at risk? It's important to keep in mind that information, however highly classified it may be, does not explode. Are we giving sufficient emphasis to the protection of nuclear materials and to export controls of technologies, which are far closer to being dangerous than any nuclear secret could be?

I think we also need to have a clear understanding of the difficulties of protecting electronic information, and to the recognize the fact that we will never have perfect security, so we shouldn't have unrealistic expectations.

WILLIAMS: All right. Let's go to Bill in Brooklyn, New York. Bill, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.

BILL (Caller): Hello. The announcement was that there is no evidence that any of this material was copied, but nobody--no journalist, and apparently no senator, simply asked the question, 'Do we have any way of knowing whether this material was duplicated or sent over the wire to somebody?' And it seems to me what you need--more than polygraph tests, I think intelligence tests might be a better use--let me mention one other thing.

WILLIAMS: Well, I didn't understand what you said, Bill. What do you mean by an intelligence test?

BILL: Well, it might be more useful than a polygraph test in this area.

WILLIAMS: You mean, you think that the scientists aren't very smart?

BILL: Not the scientists. I'm talking about the administrators, the people who are running this show for the Interior Department, isn't it?

Let me bring up one other thing. The fire itself--of course, the person who made the decision to set the world on fire apparently has stepped out, but what about the brush around the Los Alamos Laboratory, all this burnable material? I mean, who was it who did not clear the brush away? I mean, it's pretty obvious that a brush fire could spread to the laboratories across this carpet of flammable brush. I'll bet large amounts of that brush is still around the laboratory. Who is it who did not clear the brush away? I mean, there's so many...

WILLIAMS: It seems so simple.

BILL: ...so many stupidities in this--in connection with this business.

WILLIAMS: All right, Bill. Thanks for your call.


WILLIAMS: Let's go to Rob in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

ROB (Caller): Hi.


ROB: Yes, Juan, great show.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

ROB: I really think there are no absolute secrets, and I think the classified information always seems to find its way to the hands of those who want it. And it seems like, you know, every man has his price. And just like prohibition didn't work for alcohol, it sure doesn't work for secrets. You know, threat of death and imprisonment doesn't bother these folks.

WILLIAMS: Well, wait a second, Rob, because Steve Aftergood, who's here in the studio with me, said, in fact, that if scientists were sort of loose lips, a lot of secrets would have long since flown the coop; that, in fact, scientists seem to be good at holding secrets.

ROB: You could have a false sense of security there. I think that the Chinese and Russians know everything that we think they don't know, and I think that if we were more open with our research and our weaponry--actually, if we would have grasped the concept of beating our swords into plowshares, nuclear weapons and all, we'd have forced these spies to find other occupations, like drugs, gun running, slave trade, something that fits them.

WILLIAMS: This is so interesting to me. You think that if we just sort of open the doors and let everyone know about our nuclear research, it wouldn't disadvantage us as a nation?

ROB: No. The Russians had nuclear weapons; we had them. We both had more than enough to kill the world several times over. The reason we had them was so that they wouldn't use them. They never wanted to use them; we never wanted to use them. But we just created this terrible mess. Why? 'Cause we're stupid.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for your call, Rob.

ROB: Sure.

WILLIAMS: Bill, I wanted to ask you--Steve--excuse me--Steve Aftergood, I wanted to ask you, do you agree with this notion that somehow everyone has a price and that maybe some of these scientists have been blabbing all along?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: No, I don't think so. Most of these scientists have a strongly developed sense of patriotism and are committed to proper security. On the other hand, it is certainly true that electronic information, information in electronic form, has a way of getting out that those of us who grew up with paper documents aren't used to or equipped for.

Just this morning, in fact, the names of several Iranians who were involved in the CIA's covert action in Iran in 1953 were published on the Internet. This is information that the CIA had gone to great lengths to keep secret, but this is now information that's out on the World Wide Web.

WILLIAMS: Hm. Let's go to Bob in La Valle, Wisconsin. Bob, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.

BOB (Caller): Hi. How's everyone doing?

WILLIAMS: We're great. How are you?

BOB: I'd like to ask a key question.


BOB: Would you or would your gentleman with you take an open polygraph test? That's only part of my question. My whole thesis is, how can you trust the government? And these are scientists that are smart men--they're not dummies from the sticks--that know you can't trust the government to keep their promises during a witch-hunt. And they're not about to get themselves in trouble or anyone they know in trouble. They'd have to be stupid.

WILLIAMS: So you think this is now becoming a witch-hunt?

BOB: It is a witch-hunt; exactly what it is.

WILLIAMS: What about the legitimate concerns that espionage could be taking place at Los Alamos?

BOB: I don't doubt it is, but I just--I partially agree with your last two callers; not completely, but partially. Stupidity does stupid things, and we have a government and agencies that are ingrained in old-fashioned thinking. And I'm 70 years old, so I'm sort of up-to-date compared to some of your agencies. And I wouldn't trust the government as far as I could throw them. They lied about Agent Orange, they lied about Peru, they lied about Cambodia, they lied about Korea, they lied about Vietnam. And you're talking to intelligent people. How do they trust you?

WILLIAMS: Well, that's a good point. Thanks for your call, Bob.


WILLIAMS: What do you think, Steve?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: You know, there are lots of reasons to distrust the government. There's lots of reasons to become involved in the process. I was distressed by the congressional hearing yesterday because I thought it was long on rhetoric and posturing and short on facts. There was a hunt for a scapegoat, not a search for answers. Some of the things that were said were actually factually wrong. Senator Inhofe, in particular, accused Secretary O'Leary of having leaked classified information to US News & World Report back in 1995. That is a discredited accusation that has been proven to be wrong, and he is again introducing it into the public domain. So it's really disgraceful, and I think it does a disservice to the process.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me come to the point then. You think--and our last caller seems to think this as well--that there's a possibility that what's really going on here is politics and a witch-hunt, and it has less to do with the idea that America's nuclear secrets may be at risk?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: I think, unfortunately, both things are true. There's a real security issue, and there is a real policy debate, but it is wrapped in a thick layer of politics and political posturing. So, you know, the first thing that's necessary is to cut through the accusations and the rhetoric to try and get to the root issues.

WILLIAMS: Let me remind everyone who's tuned in that they're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Let's go to Doug in the Bronx. Doug, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.

DOUG (Caller): Yeah, hi.


DOUG: I want to say I agree with that idea of a witch-hunt for partisan political reasons, for electoral reasons in a presidential election year. They're just trying to find an issue to try to, you know, put a slander on the Clinton administration and thus have it be attributed to the vice president. But in terms of what the previous caller said about not trusting the government, I think people have to understand that this is one part of the government investigating another part of the government investigating another part of the government. It's intragovernment things, so what part of the government aren't you trusting, and which part of the government do you trust? You know, it's a little more complicated than just the government vs. the people or something like that.

WILLIAMS: All right.

DOUG: But what my question was about was about just a simple logistical question, technical question. When you refer to hard drives and when the press and everybody's been referring to hard drives, what are you actually referring to? Are you talking about the actual hard drive in a PC type computer? Are you talking about a mini computer or some kind of palmcorder or something?

WILLIAMS: No, no. It's as if it was just a personal computer that had a hard drive, you know, like the size of a pack of cigarettes or a deck of playing cards.

DOUG: So they're talking about what was missing and then found are two laptop computers?

WILLIAMS: No. They took the hard drives out.

DOUG: Oh, the hard drives are removable.

WILLIAMS: Correct.

DOUG: Oh, OK. 'Cause someone told me that they're not removable. All right. I just want to say one other thing. I agree with the information that has been said by the guest about former Secretary Hazel O'Leary. I think that she really got a bad rap and she was probably one of the best energy secretaries we had. She was responsible for exposing the terrible use of human beings in some radiation experiments back in the 1940s and '50s.

WILLIAMS: That's true. Yeah.

DOUG: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: Well, thanks for your call, Doug.

DOUG: Thank you very much.

WILLIAMS: Let's go to Ann in Ft. Worth, Texas. Ann, you're on TALK OF THE NATION. Ann, go right ahead.

ANN (Caller): Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was my turn.

WILLIAMS: It's your turn.

ANN: Well, I was busy visiting with your lady that answers. Thank you for taking my call. I held a very high security clearance at one time working for the federal government, and conspiracies and things like that do exist. This could be as serious as someone deliberately starting a brush fire to deliberately embarrass, to deliberately commit espionage. And I understand they're trying to break up the Energy Department, and the whole Republican Party is behind that with some general or somebody. It could be done for that reason, or it could be as simple as someone that just forgot to put them back where they belonged, you know, in an emergency. But these things do happen.

I have read the reports, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it's found that they already know what happened, they already know what's behind it and now they're trying to figure out how to tell the rest of us. So I've been there, I've seen the reports on some of these things and believe you me, it happens.


ANN: And we in this country can sure do some very dirty things when we think we need to. And I'll take your comments off the air. And thanks again for taking my call.

WILLIAMS: Well, thank you for calling, Ann. Steve Aftergood, just briefly, we have an e-mail here from Doug in Newark, California, and he writes that 'Congress acted like a bunch of hungry hyenas. Somebody would probably come forward,' he says, 'and say they had left the disks in their desk for a month, but when threatened with jail time, public humiliation, the loss of your career, who's going to come forward? If this country put more emphasis on fixing problems and less on revenge, we'd all do a lot better.' Do you think that's true?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: It's pretty much true, yeah. You can fix the problem or fix the blame. Congress was interested in fixing the blame and less in fixing the problem.

WILLIAMS: We're going to take a short break right now. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Juan Williams. My guest is Steve Aftergood. When we return, we'll continue talking about nuclear security and hear from New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson on the issue. We'll also take more of your calls at (800) 989-8255. If you'd like to join the discussion online, you can go to our Web site at www.npr.org. Click on the 'Your Turn' section, then scroll down to TALK OF THE NATION.

(Soundbite of music)

WILLIAMS: At 40 minutes past the hour, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

WILLIAMS: Welcome back to TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Juan Williams. At this time tomorrow, join Ira Flatow on "Science Friday," as the talk turns to wireless communication. It's a lot more than just radio.

Today we're talking about what we should be concerned about regarding nuclear security. My full-hour guest is Steve Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. And now joining us by phone is Congresswoman Heather Wilson. She's from New Mexico's 1st District.

Congresswoman Wilson, thanks for joining us.

Representative HEATHER WILSON (New Mexico): It's my pleasure, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you, are you concerned that what happened yesterday in the Senate was a witch-hunt, which some of our callers are alleging today?

Rep. WILSON: I think people are pretty angry at the Department of Energy and the lack of response to the previous Wen Ho Lee situation. But I think things pretty quickly will calm down and then we'll need to get on with improving security in the Department of Energy and the national labs.

WILLIAMS: There seems to have been a lot happening in that area of New Mexico recently--the fires...

Rep. WILSON: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: ...Wen Ho Lee and now this. Do New Mexicans have a special interest in what goes on at Los Alamos?

Rep. WILSON: Oh, of course we do. Los Alamos is one of the premier laboratories in the nation, and they have some of the most brilliant scientists working on some of the most important work in the country. I think the feeling of the scientists--and, of course, it varies and things--I think some of them are shocked that one of their colleagues would have not protected classified information and disks in the way they should have. But there are others who, you know--and they don't want to be tarred with the same brush. There are others who are critical of the Department of Energy and the way the Department of Energy has been managed over the last several years.

WILLIAMS: Do you think that the nuclear security issue should be under the control of the Department of Energy, or is it possible that maybe the Pentagon or some other federal agency should become involved?

Rep. WILSON: I'm a strong supporter of keeping the nuclear weapons program separate from the Department of Defense. That was the decision made back in the '40s, that the people who use or potentially use nuclear weapons should not be the people who design and develop them and keep and design the safety measures and those things. I think that was the right decision then, and I think it's the right decision now. I do think, though, we need to have this semi-autonomous agency, that General John Gordon's going to be heading up, get up and running and get refocused on the defense programs in the Department of Energy.

WILLIAMS: Tell me a little bit about that semi-autonomous agency you're describing.

Rep. WILSON: Well, after the security problems in the Cox report of over a year ago now, the Congress passed a law that said we're going to create a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy and it will include all of the weapons programs and the weapons labs and the production complex, and that'll have its own head. And one of the problems has been these conflicting lines of authority, that you've got all these people in Washington saying they're in charge and micromanaging and giving conflicting instructions. And we needed to really clean that up and clear it up so the requirements are clear. And that's what this new semi-autonomous agency was supposed to do. It was strongly resisted, and I think that's one of the reasons for the backlash on Capitol Hill, is that the reforms enacted and signed by the president have not been implemented, and we need to move forward with it.

WILLIAMS: Now who's to blame for the lack of implementation?

Rep. WILSON: Bill Richardson. He didn't like the idea that he might lose some of his authority and he resisted the legislation even though the president and his intelligence advisory board supported it. And then, you know, they slow-rolled the appointment of a new head of it. They dual-hatted everyone in the Department of Energy rather than setting up a new agency. And I think, you know, now they've confirmed John Gordon and he needs to be given the authority to stand up this new independent agency.

WILLIAMS: Now as a congresswoman from New Mexico, are you getting pressure from your constituents to take action one way or another on this issue? Are the scientists out at Los Alamos in any way saying to you and to the whole delegation from New Mexico, 'We want you to protect us'?

Rep. WILSON: No, I don't get that at all. In fact, John Gordon--rather, John Browne, who's the head of Los Alamos National Lab, you know, he's had a rough couple of months with the fires and then this. I have to say I kind of admired him when he came back here. He didn't try to pass the buck to anybody else. He stood up and he said, 'The buck stops with me. I'm responsible. We're going to fix this.' And I have to admire him for not doing a bureaucratic thing and trying to blame somebody else. So I think--I don't get pressure from my labs in that way or from employees.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman Wilson, would you mind taking a call from one of our listeners?

Rep. WILSON: Not a problem.

WILLIAMS: All right. Here's Mike from Wyoming. Mike, you're on TALK OF THE NATION, and you're with Congresswoman Heather Wilson and also Steve Aftergood.

MIKE (Caller): Yes, Juan, thank you very much. And thank you, Congresswoman. I was expecting to make a statement, but...

WILLIAMS: Go right ahead.

MIKE: Well, I spent some four years in military service for my country overseas during the Vietnam era, and I was involved with, in the beginning, the Army Security Agency, which I doubt very many people know what that is. But it's basically secure communications between higher echelons and the White House. And I moved from there into the intelligence area. I worked for G2, and then I worked in security plans and operations for three and a half years and was involved in many different aspects of the security of top-secret, secret, confidential, very sensitive documentation for the security of our country during the Vietnam era.

And I'll tell you, I was shocked last night watching the Subcommittee on--or, the senators on television last night and how they attacked this man at his--and I had to take his side.

WILLIAMS: You're talking about Bill Richardson?

MIKE: I'm talking about Mr. Browne.

WILLIAMS: Oh, the head of the lab?

MIKE: Yes, sir.

WILLIAMS: And why are you concerned? Do you feel that they were unfair to him?

MIKE: Well, I think that accountability arrives through simplicity and through a direct chain of command. And I believe that--you know, one thing that was brought up last night was about the badges and Mr. Clinton having done away with the blue and the red badges. Every document that I ever handled--and, trust me, I handled plenty. I was in on briefings, I was a courier, I was the destructions officer. The cover sheet on a document is critical because it tells a person that may happen onto it, 'Don't touch this unless you are cleared for this classification.' And I held a top secret clearance, a NOFORN, and...

WILLIAMS: So how would you solve this problem, Mike?

MIKE: Well, I think, first of all, one of the routes that they were on last night with the NNSA was a good route. I disagree with the congresswoman insomuch as it shouldn't be under military control because it seems to me that--being under military control--I saw things function very, very adequately. In the three and a half years...

WILLIAMS: Well, let's see what the congresswoman has to say.

MIKE: ...I was involved with these critical documents, we never had a breach of security.

WILLIAMS: Let's see what the congresswoman has to say. Thanks for your call, Mike.

MIKE: Yes...

Rep. WILSON: Mike, first, thanks for serving. We agree on one of the things, and that is that simplicity and directness of the chain of command is important. And that's why this semi-autonomous agency was set up. There are two things, though, to keep in mind. One is that the Department of Energy designs and builds nuclear weapons, and America's nuclear weapons, I think, are a lot safer because they were designed to be safe and stable in peacetime and not just to be effective in wartime. And I think that's one of the things that separates and makes our nuclear weapons program different from what happened in the Soviet Union and even in China, for what we know about those programs.

The other thing is that a lot of the rules on protecting classified information changed in 1993, and I think the federal government as a whole has gotten a little bit complacent and a little bit sloppy about how we protect classified information. Even little things like Mike mentioned about cover sheets and how you have to courier classified documents or a classified disk. And when you start reducing those requirements, people get sloppy.

WILLIAMS: Steve Aftergood?

Mr. AFTERGOOD: Well, I very much agree with the congresswoman as far as civilian control is concerned, but I would say that one of the reasons the rules changed, primarily under President Bush, was that they became unenforceable since there was just so much classified information. There's such a vast amount of information classified at the secret level that it becomes impractical to control it very strictly. And that's why I think the solution, or one solution to the problem we're facing now is to drastically reduce the volume of classified information we have. That will enable us to apply stronger security to the most sensitive secrets, and it'll make this vast intractable problem into a more manageable one.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, would you agree?

Rep. WILSON: Well, I agree with you, Steve, to the extent that nothing should be classified unless it needs to be protected for reasons of national security. And as you and I probably both know, there have been times when things have been classified and I kind of wonder whether they're classified for national security or because, you know, it just would be inconvenient to have them be public. And that's not the way things should work in a democracy.

WILLIAMS: All right. Let me remind everyone who's tuned in that they're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Let's go now to Cathy in Ft. Mill, North Carolina. Cathy, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.

CATHY (Caller): Hi, Juan. Actually, it's South Carolina.


CATHY: But I just wanted to make a comment and maybe ask a few questions. My comment, I guess, would be that you've been asking, is there a culture clash or is something else going on at Los Alamos? And your guests so far have said no culture clash, the scientists are with us on the security issue. I would hope that doesn't leave the other option, that the place is crawling with spies. But on the other hand, I would wonder, how is it that we screen our scientists who are allowed to work with our national security secrets? I know a lot of foreign nationals do work in Los Alamos, and all of the workers are subjected to an FBI vetting before they are allowed to begin work there. How do you do an effective vetting with someone from China, or India or other countries?

WILLIAMS: Well, let's see if the congresswoman can answer.

Rep. WILSON: Sure. People who are employees in the classified areas at the labs have to have a complete background investigation that involves usually an FBI background investigation. There are other folks who work at the labs, including in unclassified areas, who are not United States citizens. And while by law they have to go through a process to get cleared even to do that, you have to understand that these are huge laboratories that are multiprogram laboratories, including things like advanced solar energy research, where, you know, in a laboratory that's, you know, thousands of acres, you've got these solar towers out on the edge of the desert and there's really no reason why researchers from Israel or South Africa shouldn't be able to come and do research and see what we're doing there.

WILLIAMS: All right. One last call here from Laura in Ely, Minnesota. Laura, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.

LAURA (Caller): Yes. I have more of a comment. My husband and I watched the news yesterday and saw Senator Byrd grill Mr. Richardson, and we thought that it was positively arrogant and pompous on his part to treat him in that way and to almost say--well, he did say that he could stop any career moves or anything else. I think it's terrible that they feel that they have that much authority that they can speak for the American people in that way, because the people I've talked to, everybody was so angry at what he said and they thought that it was so out of line. Maybe he dropped the ball to some extent, but I don't think he deserved a dressing down like he got.

WILLIAMS: All right. Laura, thanks for your call.

LAURA: All right.

WILLIAMS: That's all the time we have for today. I'd like to thank all of you who called this hour, and especially my guests. Steve Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. He was with me here in the studio. And Congresswoman Heather Wilson. She's from New Mexico and spoke to us by phone from her office on Capitol Hill. Earlier, we spoke with T.J. Glauthier, deputy secretary of energy, from his office in Washington.

(Credits given)

WILLIAMS: In Washington, I'm Juan Williams, NPR News.

Copyright 2000 National Public Radio

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