SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
August 3, 2001

PENTAGON MODIFIES SECURITY CLEARANCE POLICY

In the future the Department of Defense will withhold security clearances from any Pentagon employee or contractor who has ever been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a year in jail; who illegally uses controlled substances; who is mentally incompetent; or who has been dishonorably discharged from the military.

Any person who currently holds a clearance and falls into one of the affected categories will have the clearance revoked the next time a periodic reinvestigation of his case is conducted.

The new policy was driven by an amendment sponsored by Senator Bob Smith and adopted as part of last year's Defense Authorization Act. Implementation of the new policy was described this week by the Defense Security Service in a notice posted here:

Proponents of the change said it was necessary because the Defense Department's personnel security program is a shambles, in which security clearances are inappropriately granted to unreliable individuals and backlogs of cases awaiting investigation or reinvestigation have escalated out of control.

But critics argue that the Smith Amendment eliminates the flexibility required for a sound security program (although there is a narrow provision for waiver in certain cases).

The critics further point out that because the new policy applies only to the Defense Department, it creates new inconsistencies between the personnel security programs of DoD and other agencies. This undermines the strenuous efforts of the past decade to promote "reciprocity" -- i.e. mutual recognition of the other's security clearances -- among national security agencies.

Finally, some have suggested that the new policy creates a new security vulnerability because it places an unknown number of currently cleared individuals at imminent risk of losing their clearances and their jobs. This could provide an occasion for blackmail or coercion if a currently cleared individual were to attempt to conceal an old dishonorable discharge, for example. Or it could create an entire class of disgruntled personnel, while leaving them in place for perhaps several years until their next periodic reinvestigation.

The new DoD policy requires revisions to the government-wide "Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information." The text of the existing guidelines (not including the new DoD-specific modifications) may be found here:

These security clearance guidelines recently became the subject of national news in connection with the alleged misconduct by Rep. Gary Condit and his access to intelligence secrets as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

See "Private Life and Security Concerns Collide" by Michael Doyle in the July 13 Modesto Bee here:

But in fact the guidelines have no bearing on a Congressman's access to classified information. That is because Members of Congress are "cleared" not by any executive branch agency but by the voters who elect them to office.


HOUSE BLOCKS CUTS IN NUCLEAR ARSENAL

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday blocked a measure that would have permitted unilateral reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Bush Administration has indicated that it favors such reductions as part of its efforts to promote a new strategic framework.

In 1997, Congress adopted legislation that prohibited any such reductions until the START II Treaty entered into force. This was generally understood to be a congressional attempt to restrict the Clinton Administration's freedom of action in this area.

The House Armed Services Committee rejected the proposal to repeal the 1997 law by a vote of 31-22.

However, the Committee voted to permit the elimination of 50 Peacekeeper missiles, as reported in the Washington Post on August 2. Each Peacekeeper carries 10 nuclear warheads.

On July 31, Sen. Jon Corzine introduced his own legislation on the Senate side to repeal the 1997 law. See his statement on the "Strategic Arms Flexibility Act of 2001" here:


REPORT ON SHOOTDOWN IN PERU

The State Department yesterday issued the first of several reports assessing the April 20 downing of a plane over Peru. The plane, suspected of illicit drug trafficking, was actually carrying American missionaries, two of whom died as a result.

The statement of Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers at a press briefing yesterday may be found here:

The report of the joint investigation by the U.S. Government and the Government of Peru is available here:

A floor statement by Senator Charles Grassley yesterday urging the Department of Defense to prosecute the drug war with greater enthusiasm may be found here:

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

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