from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 56
June 21, 2002
SCIENCE AND SECURITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY
- SCIENCE AND SECURITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY
- LEAK OF NSA INTERCEPTS LAMENTED
- NEW BILLS ON INTELLIGENCE
"Well-intentioned but poorly engineered security procedures... are undermining an atmosphere of creativity and innovation" at the Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, according to a new report prepared for the Secretary of Energy.
The report, entitled "Science and Security in the 21st Century," was authored by a Commission of distinguished former government officials and others led by John J. Hamre of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The Commission brought a mostly common-sense perspective to bear on a range of DOE security policies as it considered how to enhance security while promoting scientific vitality.
"A serious rift has developed between the scientists and the security professionals, and security will be seriously undermined if these two communities drift farther apart," the Commission report said (p. 5).
The 121 page report has much of interest to say on a variety of topics. A few notable points are these:
The executive summary of "Science and Security in the 21st Century" is available on the CSIS web site here:
- "Sensitive unclassified information is causing acute problems at DOE," the Commission found, because it has "no usable definition," there is "no common understanding of how to control it," and "no agreement on what significance it has for U.S. national security" (p. 55).
- "Security procedures should vary in intensity according to the level of sensitivity of information, activities, and materials" (p. 42). This intuitively obvious prescription is often violated in DOE and elsewhere in government. "In many laboratories, islands of ultra-sensitivity coexist on site within larger seas of little-to-no sensitivity."
- In 1999, DOE declared "zero tolerance" for violations of security policy-- but this was overkill. "The Commission believes that a robust security system must include a candid acknowledgment that human beings do make mistakes" (p. 53).
- DOE polygraph policy should be revised to make it comparable to that of the Defense Department, in which polygraph tests are chiefly used as an investigative tool, and only sparingly as a screening tool when exceptional program security is required (p. 62).
The Department of Energy's response to the Commission report is described here:
LEAK OF NSA INTERCEPTS LAMENTED
The Bush Administration complained to Congress yesterday following the publication of information about National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts concerning the September 11 attacks that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer termed "alarmingly specific."
"The President was deeply concerned about these leaks," Fleischer said. See related excerpts from the June 20 White House press briefing here:
From a distance, it is difficult to assess exactly how sensitive the disclosure of the two phrases, intercepted and translated by the NSA, and widely reported in the press on June 20, might be. But there is agreement that the published information was formally classified. Embarrassed leaders of the joint intelligence committee investigating September 11 said they had asked Attorney General Ashcroft to investigate the leak.
The significance of the intercepts was discussed in "Coded warnings became clear only in light of Sept. 11 attacks" by Tom Shane and Ariel Sabar in the June 21 Baltimore Sun:
Speaking to a gathering of reporters yesterday, Sen. Richard Shelby, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reminded them that two years ago President Clinton had vetoed his proposal to criminalize all leaks of classified information. Sen. Shelby seemed unaware that the unauthorized disclosure of NSA intercepts is already prohibited under current law.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, defended the veto of Shelby's widely criticized proposal.
But she went on to suggest the possibility of a new anti-leak statute.
"I hope that we can work together on legislation this year that accomplishes the [anti-leak] purpose without some of the objections that some of us had that will be signed by the president," Rep. Pelosi said.
Rep. Porter Goss, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, ruminated on the theme that too much information is classified.
"There is no question in my mind... that we overclassify, we needlessly classify some things. We err on the side of classification. In peacetime it seems foolish. In wartime, when there's a serious threat, it doesn't seem quite so foolish. So I would say it depends a little bit on your perspective. I would say generally we have overclassified. There is probably a great deal of information that should not be classified, that needs to be declassified," Rep. Goss said.
NEW BILLS ON INTELLIGENCE
Senator Michael DeWine introduced a bill yesterday that would lower the threshold for counterintelligence surveillance and search of "non-U.S. persons" under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Instead of requiring "probable cause" that the person is an agent of a foreign power, surveillance would be authorized upon a mere showing of "reasonable suspicion." See:
Senator Arlen Specter said on June 20 that the President's proposal for a Department of Homeland Security does not satisfactorily address the intelligence challenges that the Department would face. He called for creation of a new National Terrorism Assessment Center. See:
Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill on June 19 that would establish a new Director of National Intelligence to lead the intelligence community. See:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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