SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
August 1, 2001

EUROPEAN UNION STRIVES FOR OPENNESS

The European Commission issued a White Paper last week that aims to address widespread public dissatisfaction with politics by increasing the openness and accountability of European Union institutions.

"Many Europeans feel alienated from the Union's work," according to the White Paper, and they "no longer trust the complex system to deliver what they want."

The White Paper identifies five principles that define "good governance": Openness, Participation, Accountability, Effectiveness, and Coherence. The Paper goes on to identify proposed changes in European Union policy derived from these principles.

"We simply cannot go on as we are," said European Commission President Romano Prodi. "The White Paper is not an instant cure for everything, but it is a serious attempt to address the concerns that many people have."

To a American reader, the White Paper's diagnosis of public disenchantment with politics is familiar. Its prescription, however, may seem a little naive in its faith that political life can be reinvigorated through procedural changes. Even so, it is a refreshing reminder that political institutions are not simply inherited, but are also maintained and can be recreated by regular people.

"European Governance -- A White Paper" was adopted by the European Commission on July 25 and published for public comment here:


NEW BILL WOULD LIMIT DOE POLYGRAPHS

A bill introduced in the Senate yesterday by Sen. Pete Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman would reduce the number of Department of Energy (DOE) employees and contractors who are subject to polygraph testing, thereby reversing congressional action taken last year.

"The effect of past legislation was to require polygraphs for very broad categories of workers in DOE and in our DOE weapons labs and plants," said Senator Domenici. "But the categories specified are really much too broad, some don't even refer to security-related issues."

Senator Domenici noted further that "Polygraphs are simply not viewed as scientifically credible by Laboratory staff."

Senator Bingaman echoed that observation: "I've heard directly from many laboratory employees who question the viability of polygraphs and who have raised legitimate questions about its accuracy, reliability, and usefulness."

"It has become clear that the [existing] provision has had a chilling effect on current and potential employees at the laboratories in a way that could risk the future health of the workforce at the laboratories," Senator Bingaman said.

The new bill would reduce the number of DOE employees and contractors subject to the polygraph, limiting testing to those who have access to "the most sensitive" nuclear weapons secrets.

Senator Bingaman stressed that the proposed legislation is an "interim" measure and that further changes to DOE polygraph policy would be expected after a National Academy of Sciences study is completed next year.

See the July 31 floor statements of Senators Domenici and Bingaman introducing their new bill (S. 1276) here:

Among the considerable resources on polygraph testing offered by polygraph opponent George Maschke on his web site AntiPolygraph.org, this haiku was found:


WHEN VIRUS HYSTERIA STRIKES

The Internet did not come crashing down again today, despite the inescapable warnings that the predatory Code Red worm would unleash its fury last night.

One might hope that each such Internet disaster that fails to come to pass would lead to a moderation of official rhetoric and a more realistic assessment of the threat from cyber-terrorism and information warfare.

The Washington Times reported in a remarkable story today that Israel has been a target of particularly intense cyber-attacks from Islamic militants and others. But even this focused "cyber-jihad" has produced limited consequences, the Times observed:

The web site Vmyths.com offers pointed commentary that seeks to deflate exaggerated or self-serving claims about the threat of computer viruses. Their resources include a list of things to remember "when virus hysteria strikes." See:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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