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December 13, 1999

Jayne Brady/Bill Wicker, 202/586-5806

DOE Polygraph Implementation Plan Announced

Secretary Richardson Limits Use to Approximately 800; Requires Senior Political Appointees To Take Test

The Department of Energy (DOE) is issuing its final rules governing the use of polygraph examinations. In the implementation plan accompanying the final regulations, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson said he has significantly reduced the number of employees affected so that approximately 800 federal and contractor employees will be subjected to the polygraph test. Under the final rule, certain senior political appointees at the department also will be required to take the examination.

"This is a narrow, targeted implementation plan that reduces the number of employees subjected to a polygraph examination to approximately 800," said Secretary Richardson. "We took seriously the comments we received from scientists and other employees and developed a plan that reflects their concerns. As we continue to strengthen our counterintelligence program, we need to focus security efforts on protecting information that needs protection without impeding scientific research in the process."

The final regulations, which have been sent to the Federal Register for publication, describe the use of polygraph examinations for certain department and contractor employees, applicants for employment, and other individuals assigned or detailed to the Energy Department. Specifically, the rulemaking describes "the categories of individuals eligible for polygraph testing and controls for the use of such testing and for the prevention of unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of individuals."

An implementation plan, also issued with the rulemaking, describes how the policy will be carried out and which positions will be subject to polygraph exams. Specifically, the plan identifies the positions that will be subject to the polygraph. These targeted positions include those employees who have access to some of the most highly classified nuclear weapons information. Annually, the DOE program managers, in consultation with the Director of Counterintelligence, will develop a list of the individuals within their programs who fall within the job categories covered by the implementation plan and therefore should be polygraphed. The lists will be submitted to the Secretary for final approval. Every two years the subset used by DOE program managers to identify positions subject to polygraph testing will be reviewed. There will be a review of the entire counterintelligence polygraph program within the first 12 months after the rule's publication.

To ensure consistency between the department's implementation plan and congressional direction, the DOE will seek legislation in Congress to narrow the use of polygraph examinations. Last fall, Congress mandated that employees in four areas -- Special Access Program, Personal Security Assurance Program, Personal Assurance Program and Sensitive Compartmented Information -- be required to take a polygraph. There are more than 13,000 employees who work in these four categories, and Richardson believes that the counterintelligence interests can be satisfied with approximately 800 polygraphs.

Richardson narrowed the use of the polygraph test after hearing from scientists and reviewing the findings of a National Academy of Sciences study released in October that expressed the need to more carefully balance national security controls and scientific openness. The study specifically urged careful consideration of polygraphs "to assure that the chilling effect of the expanded use of polygraphs does not outweigh any security benefit that the testing might bring."

Richardson has also decided to delete the draft rule's exclusion for senior political appointees. The department's top three officials in Washington Secretary Richardson, Deputy Secretary T.J. Glauthier and Under Secretary Ernest J. Moniz have already taken, and passed, polygraph examinations.

As department officials indicated during four public hearings earlier this year, the polygraph is just one of a number of investigatory tools that may be used by the department's counterintelligence experts. Other tools include background checks, financial disclosure and reporting on foreign travel. In addition, the result of a polygraph test cannot be used as a sole reason for denying or revoking access to the information or involvement of the activities that justified conducting the test.

The final rulemaking can be found at: http://www.doe.gov/news/fedreg.htm

In a separate move today, Energy Secretary Richardson issued a statement to all managers and employees throughout the department and its laboratories and other facilities reminding them that racial profiling against Asian Pacific American scientists and other employees will not be tolerated. Secretary Richardson reiterated his unwillingness to tolerate any practices of a discriminatory nature, including the discriminatory application of any security procedures.

Earlier this year, Richardson established a 19-member Task Force Against Racial Profiling. The task force has visited DOE facilities, solicited best practices from the private sector and received extensive advice from both within and outside DOE. The task force is expected to present a report to the Secretary with action recommendations soon.

In today's statement, Richardson urged employees with evidence of racial profiling to contact his task force with relevant information.



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