SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 105
October 3, 2006

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

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ENERGY DEPT WILL SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE POLYGRAPH TESTING

After years of public controversy, the Department of Energy has adopted a new polygraph testing policy that it said "will significantly reduce the number of individuals who will undergo a polygraph examination."

In particular, "DOE has decided to alter the role of polygraph testing as a required element of the counterintelligence evaluation program by eliminating such testing for general screening of applicants for employment and incumbent employees without specific cause," according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The use of the polygraph for "general screening" of employees has been its most commonly criticized application.

DOE rejected arguments that polygraph testing should be eliminated entirely, indicating that such a position "cannot be reconciled" with Congressional direction to DOE to develop a new polygraph policy.

The new policy will still "require a counterintelligence [polygraph] evaluation for applicants for certain high-risk positions and every five years for incumbents of those positions," the DOE notice said.

See "Counterintelligence Evaluation Regulations," Federal Register, September 29:

I discussed "Polygraph Testing and the DOE National Laboratories" in a 3 November 2000 essay in Science Magazine here:

On October 2, a federal court rejected (pdf) a legal challenge to polygraph testing that was filed by six applicants for jobs at the FBI and the Secret Service who were denied employment after they failed a polygraph test, as noted on the web site antipolygraph.org.


NATIONAL ARCHIVES CONFRONTS DECLASSIFICATION CHALLENGES

With hundreds of millions of pages to be reviewed for declassification in the coming decade, the National Archives (NARA) faces an enormous logistical challenge if it is to discharge its responsibility to open up the historical record to the American public.

A new "Report on Declassification Challenges" suggests that the Archives, led by National Archivist Dr. Allen Weinstein, is taking the matter seriously.

"Over the next ten years,... NARA needs to be positioned to effectively and efficiently process more than 766 million pages of classified federal records," the Report notes.

"Even without the challenges identified in this report, the sheer volume requiring declassification processing by NARA with its limited resources is itself a significant challenge."

The August 2006 report, publicly released last week, lays out the magnitude of the current declassification burden and sketches a proposed concept for operations for a new National Declassification Initiative to help expedite the process.

For a variety of reasons, including resource limitations and bureaucratic resistance from some agencies, the success of the new initiative is not assured.

But neither is declassification an "optional" activity that can be easily dispensed with. To the contrary, the Report says, declassification is an integral part of classification policy.

"One of the principal means of maintaining the effectiveness of the security classification system is the prompt removal of classification controls from information that no longer requires protection in the interest of national security."

The new Report was released by the Archivist "in the spirit of transparency and to ensure that all quarters are aware of the challenges faced by NARA in this area, our ongoing efforts to address them, and to highlight the commitment of NARA to fulfilling our responsibilities to both safeguard information that requires continued protection and otherwise seek the prompt declassification and release of information."

A copy of the NARA Report on Declassification Challenges is posted here:


A SLEW OF CRS REPORTS

Some new products of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

"Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court," updated September 26, 2006:

"Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006: S. 3931 and Title II of S. 3929, the Terrorist Tracking, Identification, and Prosecution Act of 2006," September 25, 2006:

"Intelligence Spending: Public Disclosure Issues," updated September 25, 2006:

"Selected Procedural Safeguards in Federal, Military, and International Courts," updated September 18, 2006:

"East Asian Regional Architecture: New Economic and Security Arrangements and U.S. Policy," September 18, 2006:

"Critical Infrastructure: The National Asset Database," September 14, 2006:

"Information Operations and Cyberwar: Capabilities and Related Policy Issues," updated September 14, 2006:

"China/Taiwan: Evolution of the 'One China' Policy -- Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei," updated September 7, 2006:

"Immigration: Terrorist Grounds for Exclusion of Aliens," updated September 5, 2006:

"Pages of the United States Congress: Selection, Duties, and Program Administration," updated August 14, 2006:

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

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