At least two prominent scientists have become enmeshed in classification disputes with the government in recent months.
In early April, the Chicago Operations Office of the Department of Energy suspended the security clearance of Dr. Alexander DeVolpi, a respected physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, alleging that he had improperly disclosed classified information.
Dr. DeVolpi is a longtime critic of government secrecy practices dating back at least to the 1979 Progressive lawsuit, about which he co-authored a book entitled Born Secret: The H- Bomb, the Progressive Case and National Security. Over the years, Dr. DeVolpi and DOE security officials have clashed repeatedly over the contents of his publications, which officials say have sometimes revealed classified information. Following his publication of an encyclopedia article on nuclear weapons a few years ago, DOE went so far as to seize his personal computer and seal his files, until the Secretary of Energy intervened and apologized.
The current suspension of Dr. DeVolpi's clearance was precipitated by some of his latest papers. The astonishing thing is that DeVolpi had submitted his official work (though not his private publications) to Argonne National Laboratory for security review, as required, and received approval to publish! DOE subsequently directed Argonne to revise its disclosure standards, which it did, but DOE is still singling out DeVolpi for punishment even though he adhered to the prescribed rules.
"Embedded in the security apparatus at DOE is a cold war mentality that hasn't yet expired," DeVolpi said.
Dr. DeVolpi had been scheduled to travel to Russia to attend a symposium he helped organize on new technologies for detecting smuggled nuclear materials. But with the suspension of his clearance, his attendance at the symposium was blocked.
At least one DOE security official expressed chagrin that DeVolpi's travel to Russia had been canceled. DeVolpi is "an independent thinker" who "could make a real contribution" to U.S. counter-proliferation efforts, the official told S&GB on a not- for-attribution basis.
Dr. DeVolpi now faces months of suspension leading up to a hearing on his clearance. Argonne National Lab, which is partially responsible for his current situation, has so far declined to get involved and DeVolpi may have to cover his own expenses in challenging the suspension.
A second leading scientist, Dr. Hugh DeWitt of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was disciplined by DOE in February for an alleged security infraction.
Dr. DeWitt, who has also long been a thorn in the side of government classification officials, received the FAS Public Service Award in 1988 for his contributions toward exposing exaggerated claims concerning the Star Wars X-ray laser program.
The basis for the latest action against DeWitt, it turned out, was an invited public presentation he gave to DOE's own Fundamental Classification Policy Review panel. In his talk, Dr. DeWitt cited several examples of non-technical nuclear weapons- related information from the public domain that is considered classified by DOE. This is precisely the kind of information needed by the Fundamental Review team to do its job adequately, and yet DeWitt was penalized for providing it.
In an April 10 memorandum submitted to DOE (available from S&GB), Drs. DeVolpi and DeWitt jointly filed for whistleblower status and protection.
The Torment of Security Clearances
In his 1956 book The Torment of Secrecy, Edward A. Shils wrote that "An official of the Federation of American Scientists, given to moderation in his judgments, estimates very tentatively that somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand qualified scientists have encountered security difficulties." (p. 185)
S&GB could not identify any such FAS official, but forty years later scientists continue to tangle with the national security clearance system, as noted above.
It seems that the temptation to exploit the security clearance system for ideological or bureaucratic warfare, though perhaps less common than in the past, can still prove irresistible. Conservative hardliner Frank Gaffney has asserted darkly that the Clinton White House "issued clearances to political appointees who clearly could not have qualified for them previously." (Defense News, April 8-14, 1996, p. 19). In reality, political appointees are subject to the same criteria and background investigations as other cleared personnel, and those criteria have not been relaxed markedly in the Clinton Administration.
The social consequences of the lust for ideological purity and the pathological fear of subversion are brilliantly illuminated in Edward Shils' The Torment of Secrecy, which has been reissued in paperback by Ivan R. Dee, Inc. in Chicago. Though it sometimes reads as if it had been translated from the German, Torment contains many subtle and surprisingly enduring observations about the societal impacts of secrecy and publicity, the psychology of American politics, and the values of political pluralism and incremental change. The book includes a new introduction by Senator Daniel P. Moynihan.
The Internet vs. Secrecy
The Internet continues to challenge government security practices and to disturb the official equilibrium between secrecy and disclosure. Several DOD and DOE homepages on the World Wide Web have been modified or shutdown in recent months after a belated discovery that sensitive information had been posted on them.
Lately, a new type of security problem has arisen due to employees at classified facilities publishing their resumes on the Internet, according to a copyrighted alert circulated by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) last month.
"Employees who publish resumes that reveal what they are working on, the kinds of systems they are experienced in using, applications they know and other information related to their experience on the job reveal a great deal about an organization and its capabilities and limitations. By collecting many resumes, a complete picture can be drawn," the SAIC alert stated.
"Now a classified Government site has discovered that its employees have set up their own, personal Web pages offsite using Internet service providers and have posted information about the nature of their work, computing resources available at the work site, and other information that the Government wishes had not been publicly disseminated. Not only is such information of direct consequence, it indirectly can provide information for use in social engineering attacks [i.e., the manipulation of security systems through interpersonal deception]." SAIC called on employers to review employee resumes prior to their placement on the Internet.
The impact of the Internet is also reflected in a qualitatively new criterion for loss or denial of a security clearance: Misuse of Information Technology Systems. Along with traditional indicators of untrustworthiness and unreliability-- alcoholism, drug abuse, financial instability, etc.-- abuse of information systems is included for the first time in the draft Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. The draft (available at http://www.fas.org/sgp/class.htm) is awaiting final approval by the National Security Adviser.
Uncritically Propagating Evil
Although you would never know it from most official statements, there is a profound anger toward U.S. intelligence that pervades a significant part of the intelligence community itself.
Listen to U.S. Army Major Ralph Peters of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence:
"The current goal of our intelligence community is not informing the President and subordinate decision-makers, nor is it guarding the republic with knowledge. Our real goal in the intelligence community is self-preservation-- and self- perpetuation."
"Loathesomely bureaucratic, we camouflage our mediocrity and insufficiency by hiding behind absurdly-inflated classifications.... [C]lassifications such as 'top secret' or 'secret' ... are the bureaucrat's best friends, like well- intentioned tourists giving drug and drink money to the homeless, uncritically propagating evil. If the American people ever learned how much slop and drivel is disguised by imposing classifications and caveats, they would have our heads-- and we would deserve our fates."
Major Peters, who understandably stressed that he was speaking for himself and not the Department of Defense, presented his critique of U.S. intelligence last September. His exceptionally blunt and frequently insightful remarks are included in Volume 2 of the Proceedings of the 1995 Open Source Symposium, available for $50 from Open Source Solutions, 11005 Langton Arms Court, Oakton, Virginia 22124.
Intelligence Annual Report Released
The Annual Report of the Director of Central Intelligence for fiscal year 1994, the second such Report to be issued, has just been released by the CIA.
Such Reports, now required each year under the 1994 Intelligence Authorization Act, are supposed "to describe the intelligence community's successes and failures for the... fiscal year." Thus, under the heading "Areas for Improvement," three sentences are devoted to the Aldrich Ames case in the 1994 Report.
The latest Report, dated September 1995 but only approved for release in March 1996, is available through the FAS Intelligence Reform homepage at http://www.fas.org/irp/ Hard copies are available from S&GB (see address below) for $2, or a valuable consideration.
Israeli Intelligence Chief Identified
An examination of old U.S. Army archives in College Park, Maryland leads to a startling revelation concerning the head of the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service, forcing the Israeli government to publicly disclose his identity for the first time.
That's the scenario in a new novel by Ram Oren called Ot Kayin ["The Mark of Cain"], a "thriller" that is now the fastest selling book in Israeli history.
In real life, which is hardly less exciting, the identity of the designated new Mossad director, Major General Danny Yatom, became public knowledge on March 18 after the indispensable newspaper Ha'aretz chose to violate censorship restrictions which prohibit the identification of various security officials. (New York Times, 3/19/96).
"The time has come for Israel to join the enlightened nations by publishing the name of the head of the secret service," declared a Ha'aretz editorial, which argued that publication was an important step towards public accountability of intelligence.
Gen. Yatom will become the seventh Mossad director when he takes over in June from the current director, Shabtai Shavit, who can still be identified in the Israeli press only by the initial "Shin." (Ha'aretz, 3/25/96).
Girls and Spies
The current deputy director of the Mossad, publicly known only as "Ayin," may be the highest ranking female foreign intelligence official in the world, judging from a profile in Yediot Ahronot (4/3/96), although women have led internal security services in Norway and the United Kingdom, and CIA executive director Nora Slatkin is largely responsible for day to day management of the CIA.
In the US, Equal Employment Opportunity cases filed against CIA, NSA, and DIA, including sex discrimination complaints, increased by 185 percent from 1992 to 1994, according to a new General Accounting Office report (GAO/NSIAD-96-6).
"The sex discrimination case filed by female case officers has prompted the CIA to renew its efforts to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of all employees," the CIA stated in its latest Annual Report. The complaints of several female whistleblowers at CIA are reviewed by Tina Rosenberg in the February 1996 issue of Vogue.
In a previously undisclosed footnote to the history of space nuclear power, DOE and NASA officials attempted in 1994 to reactivate a plutonium-powered instrument package on the Moon that had been left there during the Apollo program and shut down in the late 1970s. The effort was unsuccessful.
The attempted reactivation was intended to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon, and to provide a morale boost to the flagging U.S. space nuclear power program. Besides, officials reasoned, it would have been "neat."
"It was my idea," said Alan R. Newhouse, who retired from DOE last year. He said that several attempts were made, using a ground station in Chile which had the needed transmitters, but there was no response.
"It was never a secret [i.e., classified]," Mr. Newhouse told S&GB. "We just don't talk about failures. How did you find out?"
Secrecy & Government Bulletin is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). The FAS Project on Government Secrecy is supported by grants from the Rockefeller Family Fund and the CS Fund.
For further information, send email to Steven Aftergood at email@example.com or call (202)675-1012 or write to Secrecy & Government Bulletin, Federation of American Scientists, 307 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.