SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 32
April 14, 2003

DOE TO REISSUE UNALTERED POLYGRAPH REGS

In a remarkable testament to the stubbornness of the security bureaucracy and its resistance to external criticism, the Department of Energy is proposing to reissue the identical regulations governing polygraph testing that Congress told it to repeal two years ago, despite a withering independent critique from the National Academy of Sciences.

In a Federal Register notice today, DOE argued that although the congressional repeal "would eliminate the existing authority which underlies DOE's counterintelligence polygraph regulations... [it] would not preclude the retention of some or all of those regulations through this rule-making...." So retaining "all of those regulations" is what DOE will do.

Congress had instructed DOE to reevaluate its polygraph policies based on the findings of a polygraph study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). That study, completed last year, was harshly critical of polygraph testing as a tool for screening of employees and found that it will generate "either a large number of false positives or a large number of false negatives."

DOE did not dispute this, but observed in faint praise of the polygraph that it is not wrong 100% of the time. In some cases, it actually "will identify true positives who are being deceptive." "Accordingly, DOE does not believe that the issues that the NAS has raised about the polygraph's accuracy are sufficient to warrant a decision by DOE to abandon it as a screening tool," the Federal Register notice explained.

"While fully respecting the questions the NAS has raised about the use of polygraphs as a screening tool, DOE does not believe it can endorse the NAS's conclusion that the tool should be laid down."

DOE invited public comment on its proposal to retain its polygraph regulations in unaltered form. See this April 14 Federal Register notice:


CIA VIEWS NORTH KOREAN NUKES

The Central Intelligence Agency last week released its latest unclassified report on foreign countries' acquisition of technology relating to weapons of mass destruction. The new report, however, has some notable omissions.

Oddly, it is silent on North Korea's plutonium program even though the Agency has previously assessed that "the North has one or possibly two weapons using plutonium it produced prior to 1992."

A copy of the new CIA report is posted here:

An independent assessment entitled "The United States, North Korea, and the End of the Agreed Framework" by Jonathan D. Pollack, to be published in the Summer 2003 Naval War College Review, may be found here:


DOJ VIEWS THE NEW EXECUTIVE ORDER

The Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy provided its take on the new executive order on classification policy in "Executive Order on National Security Classification Amended," April 11:


ADMIRING PHILIP MORRISON

For over half a century, physicist Philip Morrison has been one of the preeminent figures in the parallel worlds of theoretical physics, nuclear arms control and science education. He was a Manhattan Project physicist and a co-founder of the Federation of American Scientists.

At a March 12 symposium, FAS and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Physics Department jointly awarded him the Hans Bethe Science in Public Service Award. See "Research publication limits won't hinder bioterror, speakers say," MIT Tech Talk, March 19:

Morrison was profiled lately in "A Man Who Thinks Otherwise" by Richard Monastersky, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 11:


SADDAM AND THE CIA

One of many lacunae in the history of cold war intelligence and of Iraq in particular is the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in advancing the career of one Saddam Hussein.

"While many have thought that Saddam first became involved with U.S. intelligence agencies at the start of the September 1980 Iran-Iraq war, his first contacts with U.S. officials date back to 1959, when he was part of a CIA-authorized six-man squad tasked with assassinating then Iraqi Prime Minister Gen. Abd al-Karim Qasim," reports Richard Sale of United Press International. "U.S. intelligence services ... used him as their instrument for more than 40 years."

See "Saddam key in early CIA plot," April 10:

The CIA would not comment on the matter.

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

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