Energy Dept to Review Classification Standards for Clarity

09.18.14 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The Department of Energy will review its classification standards to improve their clarity and to eliminate possible ambiguities, the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration told the Federation of American Scientists this week.

The issue arose in response to the case of James Doyle, a Los Alamos political scientist who published an article on nuclear weapons policy that was initially cleared for publication, but then was said to contain classified information. Doyle’s employment at Los Alamos was later terminated in what was perceived by some to be an act of retaliation. (See Nuclear weapons lab employee fired after publishing scathing critique of the arms race by Douglas Birch, Center for Public Integrity, July 31, 2014.)

“It should not be possible for two reviewers to reach opposing conclusions as to whether a manuscript contains classified information or not,” wrote FAS President Charles D. Ferguson in an August 21 letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “But that is apparently what happened” in the Doyle case.

“Accordingly, we urge you to direct that the relevant classification guidance be reviewed and clarified to eliminate all potential ambiguity of the sort that was on display here,” the FAS letter said.

“That is a worthwhile and welcome suggestion,” replied NNSA Administrator Frank G. Klotz on September 15, “and we will undertake such a review as well.”

“The Department of Energy fully subscribes to the principle and importance of academic freedom at our laboratories, and will not tolerate retaliation against nor dismissal of employees or contractors based on the opinions they express in scholarly publications and presentations.”

“Without commenting on the particulars of Mr. Doyle’s case, I have asked the Department’s Inspector General to examine whether Mr. Doyle’s termination resulted in whole or in part from the publication of an article he authored,” Gen. Klotz wrote.

(See related stories in The Daily Beast, Albuquerque Journal.)