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Committee on Science Hearing

Security at the Department of Energy:

Who’s Protecting the Nation’s Secrets?

May 20, 1999


Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, it’s a pleasure to see you again. I look forward to hearing about all the new counterintelligence and safeguards and security measures you have started to implement at DOE labs.

I think it’s fair to say that we have all been shocked and appalled by the revelations that some of our most important nuclear weapons design secrets may have been obtained by China. If you can believe what you read in the newspapers, the degree to which our national labs have been penetrated is horrifying. The question is, now what?

The counterintelligence and safeguards and security measures announced in Presidential Decision Directive 61 and by you, Mr. Secretary, sound appropriate. But I remember all the hearings that John Dingell had on similar issues, and I must say that this all starts to sound like a bit of a broken record to me. For more than 20 years and several Administrations, reports on lax security at the labs have led to pronouncements of reform which somehow never seem to be anything but temporary or ineffective. I look forward to hearing how the changes you plan will be a permanent solution to these recurring problems.

Finally, I would like to say a few words about some of the legislation that calls for a moratorium on foreign visitors to the labs. I think it’s important that we balance the priority of national security with the benefits obtained from open scientific interaction. It may be necessary to have a temporary moratorium on those visits which involve sensitive areas, until we are reasonably assured that the security problems have been corrected; But to permanently ban all visits related to basic science would be a real mistake. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue Mr. Secretary.

Thank you very much.

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