from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 68
July 22, 2005


The Department of Defense is proposing to tighten its contracting rules to restrict access by foreign nationals working in U.S. labs to information and technology that is export-controlled, a move that could wreak havoc in university research centers and elsewhere.

"Any access to export-controlled information or technology by a foreign national or a foreign person anywhere in the world, including the United States, is considered an export to the home country of the foreign national or foreign person," the proposed rule states. Accordingly, any such access must be restricted, or licensed, DoD contends.

The rule was published in the Federal Register on July 12:

University administrators and others say the export control requirements, strictly interpreted, would be so onerous as to cripple many DoD-funded university research programs, where foreign nationals make up a large fraction of working scientists.

"To comply," explained reporter Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in Science Magazine today, "universities and companies working on defense projects would not only need licenses to enable foreign nationals to participate in the research but would also need to protect export-controlled information through an 'access control plan' that includes 'unique badging requirements for foreign nationals' and 'segregated work areas'."

Rather than adopt such practices, some university researchers say, they would decline DoD contracts.

The proposed rule follows on a March 2004 DoD Inspector General report which found that "DoD does not have adequate processes to identify unclassified export-controlled technology and to prevent unauthorized disclosure to foreign nationals."

See "Export-Controlled Technology at Contractor, University, and Federally Funded Research and Development Center Facilities," DoD Inspector General report, March 25, 2004:

A parallel move by the Department of Commerce to restrict so-called "deemed exports" has raised analogous concerns (Secrecy News, 05/02/05).


In an extraordinary intervention last May, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approached the National Academy of Sciences and asked the Academy not to publish a pending scientific paper on the consequences of a terrorist attack on the U.S. milk supply.

Secrecy News belatedly obtained a copy of the May 27 HHS letter spelling out its concern that the paper by Lawrence Wein and Yifan Liu constituted "a road map for terrorists." See:

It should be said that HHS did nothing wrong. The letter, from HHS Assistant Secretary Stewart Simonson, advanced a public safety argument against publication but did not present any threat of censorship or other form of coercion.

Having given due consideration to the HHS argument, the Academy went on to publish the controversial paper anyway in the June 28, 2005 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It is some kind of landmark in the post-9/11 record of freedom of publication. Even so, scientific critics -- principally Milton Leitenberg and George Smith -- argued that the paper is a poor guide to public policy since it is predicated on unfounded assumptions regarding the availability of botulinum toxin, and uninformed by an awareness of the actual security measures that are in place to protect the milk supply (Secrecy News, 06/14/05).


The East African nation of Djibouti this month became the 122nd nation to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which would bar the explosive testing of nuclear weapons.

The CTBT preparatory commission announced the move in a July 21 press release. See:

The United States is not among the ratifiers.


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

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