NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Feds Having Their Locks Picked

January 13, 2000

Political analysts are noticing an increasing number of security violations under the Clinton administration.

The most visible have been at the Energy Department which oversees the Los Alamos National Laboratory -- where there has been a problem with alleged Chinese spying into U.S. nuclear secrets. After the department waived FBI background checks on foreign visitors and workers there in 1993, the General Accounting Office identified 45 severe security violations in 1998.

Another lab couldn't account for 10,000 classified documents.

But security rules have been violated or found wanting at other federal agencies.

  • The General Accounting Office says about 600,000 workers and contract workers at the Department of Defense haven't been vetted, although they have access to top secret material -- and concluded that the Pentagon "has become vulnerable to espionage."
  • After the State Department dropped a rule requiring people entering its main building after hours to show their photo ID to guards, a Russian spy planted a bug in a top-level conference room.
  • Despite several serious security breaches at the Commerce Department, the department never tightened security, according to Donald Forest, who heads its China desk.
  • It became evident that security was not a priority even at the White House after workers who were identified as security risks by the FBI were given clearance.

Critics warn that under such circumstances it is only a question of time until Americans read in their morning papers of yet more scandals involving the theft of vital national intelligence.

Source: Editorial, "The Key's Under the Mat," Investor's Business Daily, January 12, 2000.


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