14 June 2001
TO: C. Paul Robinson, President Sandia National Laboratories
Joan Woodard, Executive Vice-President, Sandia National Laboratories
Dear Paul and Joan:
In a May 31, 2001 memo (received at Sandia of 6 June 2001), the Director of the DOE Office of Counterintelligence , Mr. Micheal J. Waguespack announced the new DOE policy with regard to requesting medical information from polygraph subjects. I commend your review of this memo in full, but in part it reads:
""While OCI is no longer requesting a medical consent, there may be situations where submission to an examination would be inappropriate on the basis of a current medical of psychological condition. It is in such circumstances where a waiver may be appropriate.
It is incumbent on applicants and incumbents to the high-risk programs to raise any medically related concerns (emphasis added). Although the pertinent language in the attachment addresses a waiver potential, it also provides that the candidate should take the initiative in seeking such a waiver."
Based on this text, I believe that the "new" policy falls far short of addressing the specific concerns of Laboratory technical staff and Sandia's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Larry Clevenger in that it appears that the DOE appears to reserve the right to obtain such information and render a judgement on the suitability of candidates to take the polygraph. More ominously, I believe the new policy also creates a duty on the part of individual laboratory employees to come forward with "medically related" information before taking the polygraph. Since there are no guidelines, articles, or textbook chapters anywhere in the medical, psychiatric and psychology literature on "medical contra-indications to the polygraph", this is, in my view, a liability that is impossible to address and leaves Employees open to adverse action should they somehow fail to disclose "medically relevant" information.
But, I am most deeply troubled by the implications inherent in the demand by the Department that Employees consult their physicians to determine if there is "any indication" that the Employee should not take the test. In the draft "Notification Letter" for employees attached to the OCI memo, Mr. Waguespack states:
"Pursuant to section 3135c of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law 106-398) the Secretary of Energy may waive the polygraph requirement if he or she determines, after consultation with the covered person and appropriate medical personnel, that the treatment of a medical of psychological condition of the covered person should preclude the administration of the polygraph examination. In addition, 10 CFR section 709.4(b)(2) provides that the DOE Test Center may grant a waiver to any individual who is being treated for a medical or psychological condition or is taking medication which, based upon consultation with the individual, is determined to preclude that individual from being tested. You may wish to consult your appropriate medical personnel to determine whether, based on these criteria, there is any indication that you should be precluded from being tested." (emphasis added)
Physicians will face serious ethical problems should they be consulted by Employees seeking to carry out the new requirement to identify "medically relevant" information. I reviewed this matter in detail with Dr. Grant LeFarge, Secretary to and Member of the New Mexico Board of Medical Examiners by telephone yesterday. He agreed that, at least on initial evaluation, physicians would be acting in contravention of medical privacy and also to the detriment of the doctor-patient relationship in rendering such judgements. Further, since there is a dearth of scientific information supporting the credibility (a priori) of the polygraph as a diagnostic test as well as the widely known problem of false positives in the face of a vanishingly small number of "true" positives when the test is used in a screening mode, physicians would be ill-advised to participate in any way in conforming with this onerous government requirement. Dr. LeFarge asked me to forward to him a copy of the Mr. Waguespack memo and the relevant, though limited, medical references on the subject.
Attached you will find a copy of the letter I sent to Dr. LeFarge, which includes the references to medical articles substantiating the flaws that render the polygraph an unacceptable tool from the medical perspective. I would be pleased to FAX hardcopies of the articles which are from the most prestigious journals in medicine - The New England Journal, Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Lancet - should you wish to have them for future reference.
I realize that I am engaging in struggle that is controversial, and potentially even damaging to me personally. In no way do I seek to place Sandia or its management in a dangerous or untenable position as the serious problems with the DOE Polygraph Program are debated. But, I have always taken to heart the oath I uttered upon becoming a physician. It is not possible for me sit quietly in the face of an attempt on the part of the DOE OCI to coerce the New Mexico medical community into being complicit in acts that are both unethical and destructive of the doctor-patient relationship. I expect that all of us would expect our own physicians to be fully informed in this matter should this regrettable new policy go forward unchallenged.
Alan P. Zelicoff, MD
Center for National Security and Arms Control
Mail Stop 1203
Sandia National Laboratories
Albuquerque, NM 87185-5800
Phone: (505) 844-8020
FAX: (505) 844-8119
Secretary: Judy L. Wade -- (505) 844-7110