from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
January 26, 2001


The Department of Defense released its annual report to Congress on the counterintelligence polygraph program this week. The report provides a summary of Pentagon polygraph activity, a description of ongoing research efforts on the fragile scientific underpinnings of the polygraph, and a new collection of anecdotes in which the polygraph saved the day.

The new report is posted here:

At his recent confirmation hearing, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said in response to a question that he would reevaluate the requirement for many thousands of additional polygraph tests for DOE employees and contractors at the national labs. Since this requirement was imposed by Congress, however, it is hardly within Secretary Abraham's power to modify it. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences begins its $860,000 study of the polygraph with a public meeting today.


The Defense Department officially aborted an Energy Department initiative to declassify information concerning total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile.

As previously reported, General Eugene E. Habiger of the Department of Energy wrote to the Pentagon last May calling for "declassification of total nuclear weapon stockpile quantities (past, present, and future) and subcategorization of those quantities by purpose, delivery system, and active/inactive status, but not by location, or specific weapon type." (SN, 01/04/01).

But in a newly obtained December 20, 2000 letter, Assistant Secretary of Defense Arthur L. Money wrote to General Habiger rejecting his proposal. "The DoD believes the current classification policy is still valid and does not agree with declassifying this information."

Mr. Money explained further: "The proposed declassification ... could provide significant information on stockpile modernization, international treaty compliance and negotiation positions. Such stockpile information is directly relevant to the reconstitution of nuclear forces."

Since DoD concurrence is required under the Atomic Energy Act for declassification of this information, DOE is unable to proceed unilaterally.

A copy of the December 20 letter from Assistant Secretary Money is posted here:

General Habiger recently left government to join a new arms control organization funded by Ted Turner and directed by former Senator Sam Nunn.


Howard Morland is the author of the infamous 1979 Progressive magazine article on "The H-bomb secret." Based on interviews and a review of the unclassified literature, he described in broad conceptual terms and with some errors how an H-bomb works. It drove the government crazy. Arguing that the article contained classified information, Justice Department lawyers won an unprecedented preliminary injunction barring its publication. (FAS, incidentally, opposed publication of the article.) The government eventually dropped the case against The Progressive and the article was published in the magazine's November 1979 issue.

In a newly updated retrospective on that landmark case, Morland reflects on nuclear secrecy, speculates on what might have been contained in the hundreds of megabytes downloaded by Wen Ho Lee, and expounds on his view of the urgency of nuclear abolition. See:


  • A new security classification guide for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization is still "in coordination" and will probably not be finalized until March or April, said BMDO spokesman Lt. Col. Rick Lehner. However, he said that the dates of interceptor flight tests would NOT be classified. The proposed classification of flight test dates was one of several issues that had elicited public concern. (See SN, 11/15/00).

  • Pope John Paul II will appoint 37 new cardinals in a ceremony on February 21 including Avery Dulles, a staunchly conservative Jesuit theologian and professor at Fordham University. Rev. Dulles, 82, is the son of President Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and nephew of the onetime Director of Central Intelligence Allen W. Dulles. Mazel tov.

  • President Clinton's unexpected pardon of Samuel Loring Morison should help make it incrementally more difficult for the government to prosecute those who disclose classified information to the press. Morison was an employee of the Naval Intelligence Support Center who leaked classified satellite photos of a Soviet aircraft carrier to Jane's Defence Weekly. In 1984 he was sentenced to two years in prison, the only person ever convicted under the Espionage Act for such an offense. The case set a unique and terrible precedent, but President Clinton's pardon should tend to reduce its precedential power. Morison said that he had applied for a pardon two years ago and that his case had been strengthened by influential supporters, including historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who wrote to President Clinton on his behalf.


    To subscribe to Secrecy News, send email to [email protected] with this command in the body of the message:

    To unsubscribe, send email to [email protected] with this command in the body of the message: Secrecy News is archived at: