SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
December 18, 2001

INADVERTENT DISCLOSURES OF NUCLEAR INFO

A painstaking search through 28 million pages of declassified documents at the National Archives earlier this year turned up 60 pages containing classified nuclear weapons information that should not have been disclosed, according to a new Department of Energy (DOE) report to Congress.

The ongoing search for inadvertent disclosures of classified information contained in declassified records was mandated in 1998 by congressional critics of the Clinton Administration's declassification program. To date, nearly two hundred million pages of declassified documents have been scrutinized by official reviewers as a result.

The continuing congressional requirement to re-review such documents has been criticized by some security professionals because it diverts resources and skilled personnel for an uncertain benefit. The whole thing is "overkill," according to the latest report of the Information Security Oversight Office.

An error rate of 60 pages out of 28 million (or 2 per million) is far better than might be expected from most human activities.

The significance of the inadvertent disclosures is further diminished by the fact that about half of them involve information concerning locations of nuclear weapons storage sites abroad thirty or forty years ago. Such historical information, while formally classified, hardly poses a threat to national security.

An assessment of the damage resulting from the other disclosures was not released. Nor did DOE report on the financial cost of locating the 60 pages containing classified information.

The new DOE report on inadvertent disclosures of classified information, the fourth in a series, is dated August 2001 but was released in declassified form on December 17. A copy of the report is posted here:


DOE OVERSIGHT BOARD FREEZES ACCESS

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which oversees nuclear safety at Department of Energy (DOE) sites, last week moved to block public access to unclassified DOE documents in the Board's possession.

DOE directed the DNFSB to withhold the documents after they were requested by researcher Tom Clements of the watchdog Nuclear Control Institute. Such documents had previously been accessible through the Board.

"The DNFSB has played a critical role in providing a tiny window onto DOE activities and information," said Mr. Clements in a December 16 release. "Slamming this window shut under the guise of national security could well prove to be a disservice to those working in the public interest on DOE issues." See:


DOE POLYGRAPH POLICY TO BE REPEALED

The controversial Department of Energy counterintelligence polygraph program that was enacted by Congress three years ago will be repealed and replaced by a new program, according to the Defense Authorization Act of 2002.

The previously mandated polygraph program, which required the polygraph testing of perhaps twenty thousand national laboratory personnel, drew stiff resistance from scientists and others. A newly reconfigured DOE polygraph program will be based on the results of a pending National Academy of Sciences study.

See the new defense authorization provision on polygraph testing here:

Last week, a federal judge rejected government efforts to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges the use of polygraph testing for screening of federal employees. The lawsuits were brought against the FBI, DEA and Secret Service by eleven plaintiffs, represented by attorney Mark S. Zaid, who were denied employment based on polygraph tests. See:


JUSTICE CONVENES TASK FORCE ON LEAKS

The Department of Justice last week announced the creation of an interagency task force "to review current administrative and legal sanctions governing leaks of classified information" and to recommend administrative, regulatory and statutory changes, if needed, to combat such unauthorized disclosures.

The task force was established in response to congressional direction in the intelligence authorization act of 2002. It will issue an unclassified report by May 1. See:


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

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