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  • In implementing federal security policies for S&T personnel:

    • Engage S&T personnel in the development and implementation plans for security measures.

    • Continue to accept non-US citizens as visitors and in some cases staff, expedite security reviews for visitors, and more generally work to avoid prejudice against foreigners.

    • Focus and limit security efforts to address the most important security situations.

  • Create new or expand existing mechanisms to engage the S&T community in advisory capacities and to improve communication channels.

    • Encourage communication among the diverse communities involved in security issues—policy, S&T, national and homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence—so that policies regarding scientific communication are both effective and broadly accepted.

    • Build bridges among these communities, particularly in areas of S&T, such as the life sciences, where there is little history of working with the government on security issues.


The US government handles issues of secrecy through a complex mix of statutes, regulations, and procedures that govern the control of classified information, public access to government information, and the maintenance of government records. With two exceptions, the government has no authority to designate information produced outside this legal framework as classified.1 In the wake of September 11, President Bush extended classification authority to several departments and agencies that had not previously been involved in such matters, such as the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Controversies over whether areas of scientific research should be restricted in the name of national security recurred throughout the Cold War. During the early 1980s, the Reagan administration sought to restrict scientific communication in a number of fields. That controversy eventually led to a presidential directive in 1985, influenced in part by a report from the National Academy of Sciences.2 National Security Decision Directive 189


The first exception is through the Atomic Energy Act; information related to nuclear weapons may be “born classified” without any prior involvement of the government in its generation. The second exception, under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, permits information received as part of the patent-application process to be classified.


National Research Council. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1982.

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