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Normal Topic Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham on Polygraphs (Read 2310 times)
George W. Maschke
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Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham on Polygraphs
Jun 25th, 2001 at 6:55pm
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In the 4 May 2001 issue of Sandia Lab News (vol. 3, no. 9; click here to download) Ken Frazier reported on Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham's comments regarding polygraph policy in an article titled "Abraham on Energy, Polygraphs in Albuquerque News Conference":
Secretary Spencer Abraham spoke to Albuquerque- area news media in a DOE news conference in the lobby of the Kirtland Air Force Base theater. Here are a few selected comments that may interest Sandians:
To a question on polygraphs: "As a former member of the Senate, the Congress is going to support the things we do here only so long as they believe they are effective, and productive, and vital, and that they believe the work that we do in the labs can remain safe and secure," Abraham said. "Any challenge to either of those assumptions I think will be translated into significant reductions in the commitment that Congress makes.
"We have a responsibility to the American people to make sure that national security secrets remain secret. How we do that is something that [NNSA Administrator] General [John] Gordon is working on very seriously and I think very effectively." Abraham referred to several studies of polygraph issues under way, including the National Academy of Sciences' year-and-a-half-long study. He said those who take the polygraph test are given a questionnaire afterward, and asserted that "an overwhelming percentage, 95 percent, in some cases 99 percent, have indicated that they did not feel that these tests have been administered in an intrusive way or in a way that they feel was inappropriate, and that is how I answered [when he took the test upon becoming energy secretary]. That was my perception. But we want to do this in a way that is effective both in terms of security and morale. I don't think those two have to be inversely related. General Gordon will do his best, and I believe we will proceed forward in a way that is consistent with the highest levels of morale and the highest levels of security. I have great confidence in John Gordon's ability to do that."

While it is not clear from this article just what question Secretary Abrams was answering, it should be noted that whether 95 or 99 percent of employees surveyed indicate that the "test" was not conducted inappropriately, the DOE polygraph program remains a fraud (see my article, The Lying Game: National Security and the Test for Espionage and Sabotage for details). The best way to "proceed forward in a way that is consistent with the highest levels of morale and the highest levels of security" is to abolish polygraph screening.

It seems from his remarks that Sec. Abrams doesn't plan on exercising leadership on this issue, but that he is instead deferring to NNSA Administrator John A. Gordon.

George W. Maschke
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