1998 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security



Hearing of the Subcommittee on Military Procurement
Committee on National Security
U.S. House of Representatives

October 6, 1998

C. Bruce Tarter, Director
University of California
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am the Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Our Laboratory was founded in 1952 as a nuclear weapons laboratory, and national security continues to be our central mission.

As a Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory, our work is at the forefront of science and technology and we are responsible for staying at the leading edge in areas central to our programs. We depend on interactions with the international science and technology community to be cognizant of major advances and to acquire special expertise needed to accomplish mission goals. We also engage foreign nationals as part of our national security mission through participation in international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, materials, and know-how. Both sorts of interactions include visits to the Laboratory by foreign nationals and, in some cases, more extensive technical discussions and even participation in specific research projects.

When we interact with foreign nationals on site or off site, we take the issue of protecting sensitive information extremely seriously. While we derive considerable benefits from the presence of foreign visitors and assignees at the Laboratory, we fully appreciate that there is the risk of compromise of sensitive information if effective steps are not taken to understand the potential threat and ensure security control. Because ensuring information security is not a simple task, we are employing increasingly sophisticated measures in the way we process and manage visits by foreign nationals and their longer-term presence as assignees to the Laboratory.

As I will discuss, I believe we have an effective set of procedures and controls in place for managing security for foreign national visits and assignments to the Laboratory. Central to the our efforts is Livermoreís counterintelligence (CI) program. The program manager was hired from the ranks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to place our CI program in close coordination with the lead agency for foreign counterintelligence in the U.S. Two additional former FBI Special Agents have been hired into the program, bringing to the Laboratory three professionals each of whom have had over twenty-two years of FBI foreign CI experience. Our objective was to enlist the help of the FBI in identifying threats posed by hostile intelligence services to the Laboratory and its employees. The CI program and the FBI have established a very close and effective working relationship, of great benefit to the Laboratory, to DOE, and to the Bureau.

The Laboratory's CI program was reviewed as part of field research conducted to prepare the 90 Day Report requirement outlined in Presidential Decision Directive (PDD/NSC)-61. Concepts that derive from foreign visitor procedures and security controls in place at Livermore figure into the action plan that was developed, (SNSI/US ONLY) Mapping the Future of the Department of Energy's Counterintelligence Program (U). I broadly agree with the thrust of the report, which includes actions that should lead to improved performance. We will work with the DOE's ironing out details to most effectively implement the report's recommendations.


We have taken significant steps to improve the effectiveness of controls over foreign national visits to the Laboratory since the time of the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), Nuclear Nonproliferation: Major Weakness in Foreign Visitor Controls at Weapons Laboratories (GAO/RCED-89-31, October 11, 1988). We responded to the report's call to action and the subsequent issuance of DOE Order 1240.2b Unclassified Visits and Assignments by Foreign Nationals (September 3, 1992), which establishes responsibilities and policies and proscribes administrative procedures for controlling unclassified visits and assignments to DOE's facilities.

Some of the improvements we have made are reported in the more recent GAO report, Department of Energy Actions Needed to Improve Controls Over Foreign Visitors to Weapons Laboratories (GAO/RCED-97-229, September 25, 1997). Other actions were in progress at the time of GAO's audit of our program or have been instituted since. I shall use the main DOE-wide issues raised in the more recent GAO report to discuss important aspects of Livermore's efforts in this area.

Implementation of Foreign Visitor Procedures. We have established formal procedures within the Laboratory for approval of foreign national visits that include counterproliferation and counterintelligence review. The process routinely includes a background check, an expert review of proposed topics in view of classification, nonproliferation, and export control issues, and prebriefing and debriefings of the Laboratory scientist host of the visitors.

Security Controls. We have developed and implemented a standard security plan for all foreign visitors to controlled areas. In addition, we prepare detailed visit-specific plans when warranted. Furthermore, we conducted two operations security (OPSEC) assessments: one focusing on a building at the Laboratory where many foreign national assignees work and the other a multi-building survey to identify and address potential OPSEC issues.

Counterintelligence Efforts. As mentioned, Livermore has a counterintelligence program with a highly experienced staff that works closely with the FBI. The program reviews visits and assignments, conducts host briefings, runs a vigorous Laboratory-wide counter-espionage awareness program, develops a threat assessment for the Laboratory, and carries out an annual review of the assignments and access of foreign nationals at Livermore to assure that they do not pose risks to protected information.


The 1997 GAO report Department of Energy Actions Needed to Improve Controls Over Foreign Visitors to Weapons Laboratories expressed concern that foreign visitor procedures have not been effectively implemented.  The concerns stem from a deficiency of advance knowledge about the backgrounds of many sensitive-country visitors and inadequate efforts to ensure that the visits do not involve sensitive subjects.

At Livermore, we are addressing these concerns through formal procedures we have established for approval of foreign national visits. Of course, a central consideration is the benefit to Laboratory and DOE programs from the interaction. The process requires review and signature by the Director's Office, the host Program or Directorate, the counterintelligence program, and Proliferation Prevention and Arms Control Program. The counterintelligence program works closely with the FBI to conduct background checks. Background checks are required for all assignees to the Laboratory from sensitive countries and we routinely conduct background checks for sensitive-country short-term visitors all visitors are checked that are citizens of China or Russia. At the time of the GAO review we had a documented audit trail of the background check for 44% of the sensitive-country visitors (the figure cited in the report). We are certain that the actual percentage was much higher. We have since upgraded our record keeping procedures and we are installing an electronic system, the Visitor Tracking System, which will facilitate processing, performance auditing, and detailed analysis of patterns and statistics.

It is principally the responsibility of the Laboratory scientist host and the host organization to ensure that sensitive information is not compromised. At our Laboratory, for assurance, an expert from our Proliferation Prevention and Arms Control Program reviews the content of the planned interactions giving consideration to sensitive technology and export control issues, classification issues, proliferation concerns, and U.S. policy concerns. In addition, the counterintelligence program prebriefs and debriefs the host of the visit.

Fundamentally, however, it remains the case that effective protection of sensitive information requires sound technical judgment on the part of participating Laboratory employees and a clear understanding of sensitivities and the topics and context of the discussions. We need to continue to work with DOE to find a more effective way of characterizing sensitive information topics so that the visit review procedures followed are appropriate for the circumstances.

Two examples highlight other mechanisms in place at the Laboratory to prevent compromise of sensitive information through visits and/or foreign national assignments. The Laboratory has, on its own initiative, established a policy prohibiting all sensitive-country foreign nationals from participating in national security projects, especially the Stockpile Stewardship Program and related internally-funded (e.g., Laboratory Directed Research and Development) projects. To ensure that this is properly enforced, the CI program reviews any requests for waivers of the policy. Additionally, within the Lasers Directorate at the Laboratory, which engages in a large number of projects with industrial partners, a senior person has recently been named to lead a concerted effort to ensure that intellectual property policies, procedures, and practices are clearly understood and uniformly followed.


A second major concern raised in the 1997 GAO report was that security controls may not be adequate. Security controls vary among the laboratories, there have been instances of compromise of information, and the controls over unclassified, but sensitive, information have not been fully assessed.

As do Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, Livermore uses a multilevel, graded security approach to limit access and protect information. There are open areas, controlled areas (areas with valuable property but no classified work) that receive a higher level of protection, and areas where classified work is performed that receive even greater protection. Except under special circumstances and tightly controlled, escorted short visits, foreign nationals only have access to the open and controlled areas of the Laboratory. On a case by case basis, some foreign national assignees to the Laboratory have been granted unescorted after-hours access to controlled areas. With very rare exceptions, unescorted after-hours access is not approved for sensitive-country nationals.

In addition to the Laboratory's physical security systems, we have developed and implemented a standard security plan for all foreign visitors and assignees in controlled areas. Detailed visit-specific plans are prepared when warranted. Furthermore, the staff is very aware of espionage dangers and the need for information security. Our counterintelligence program, known throughout the Laboratory as SAFE, for Security Awareness For Employees, presents talks to groups of employees, arranges presentations on espionage-related topics by guest speakers from the intelligence community, and keeps a lending library of videotapes on counterintelligence subjects.

Operations security assessments are conducted at the Laboratory on an annual basis. One of our most recent assessments focused on one of the buildings at the Laboratory where many foreign national assignees work. Another assessment was a multi-building survey to identify and bring to the attention of Laboratory programs and hosts potential OPSEC issues in their area. In addition, since 1996, I have tasked the CI program to carry out an annual review of the assignments and access of foreign nationals at the Laboratory to assure that they do not pose risks to protected information.


The 1997 GAO report also concluded that DOE's counterintelligence efforts can be improved. Two specific concerns were related to DOE oversight of the laboratorie's CI programs and the lack of a comprehensive assessment of the foreign espionage threat to the DOE and its laboratories.

As I noted, we have taken steps to put in place an expertly staffed CI program at Livermore with strong working relationships with the FBI. We wanted to be in position to obtain the most current and relevant threat information in a timely manner, and to be able to share with the FBI and other agencies such information of CI relevance that they might need in order to carry out their missions. In addition to the members of our staff with FBI experience, two FBI Special Agents are assigned to Livermore on a part-time basis to work closely with the CI office. Accordingly, between the Laboratory and the FBI, there is an almost daily flow of information which might bear on intelligence threats posed by foreign nationals. This level of cooperation is key to our success.

I have highlighted many of the activities of our CI program: reviewing foreign national visits and assignments, conducting Laboratory scientist host briefings, running a vigorous Laboratory-wide counter-espionage awareness program, and carrying out an annual review of the assignments and access of foreign nationals at Livermore to assure that they do not pose risks to protected information. In addition, the CI program contributes to the ělocal threat study, a biennial threat assessment of the Laboratory conducted by the OPSEC program.


We derive considerable benefits from the presence of foreign visitors and assignees at the Laboratory and we take very seriously the foreign espionage risks involved. We balance the benefits and risks through well-established procedures for managing the review of foreign visitor requests and assignments, approved plans and attention to security controls, and an expertly staffed counterintelligence program. I believe we have effective procedures and controls in place, but as circumstances change we must continue to examine them for opportunities to make needed improvements.

We are encouraged by the positive feedback we received from DOE after their review of our program as part of field research conducted to prepare the 90 Day Report. I think it is fair to say that steps Livermore has taken have helped point the way for some of the actions recommended in the report. As I have said, I broadly agree with the thrust of the report and we will work with the Department to effectively implement the 90 Day Report's recommendations.