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Secrecy News -- 06/19/02

From: Steven Aftergood <saftergood@fas.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 14:35:17 -0400
Fwd Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2002 04:14:07 -0400
Subject: Secrecy News -- 06/19/02


SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 55
June 19, 2002


**	SECRECY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
**	HOMELAND SECURITY BILL PROPOSED
**	CODE TALKERS HONORED


SECRECY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY

Questions of whether and how to limit publication of scientific
research that might lend itself to malicious purposes continue
to roil the waters in the post-September 11 security
environment.

New techniques to genetically engineer viruses so as to
dramatically increase their lethality are already in hand. At
what point, if any, should restrictions on such developments be
imposed? What are the responsibilities of government, and of
scientists themselves?

These are not altogether new issues. Francis Bacon broached the
matter in his utopian essay "The New Atlantis" (paragraph 87),
published in 1626:

"And this we do also: we have consultations, which of the
inventions and experiences which we have discovered shall be
published, and which not; and take all an oath of secrecy for
the concealing of those which we think fit to keep secret;
though some of those we do reveal sometime to the State, and
some not." See:

http://www.constitution.org/bacon/new_atlantis.htm

But the problem assumes greater salience today as the
consequences of potential abuses increase with advances in
technology, especially in the life sciences.

Aspects of the current debate are reported this week in "Speak
No Evil: Should biologists publish work that could be misused?"
by Nell Boyce in the June 24 issue of U.S. News and World
Report:

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/020624/misc/24bioterror.htm

See also "Biotech Loses Its Innocence" by Eric Cohen in the June 24
Weekly Standard:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/369zqx
vp.asp

Related issues are also addressed in "Designer Bugs" by Jon
Cohen in the July/August 2002 Atlantic Monthly (not online).

The National Academy of Sciences ad hoc Committee on Research
Standards and Practices to Prevent the Destructive Application
of Biotechnology will hold its second meeting in Washington on
June 24-25.


HOMELAND SECURITY BILL PROPOSED

The Bush Administration yesterday sent to Congress draft
legislation to establish a new Department of Homeland Security.

The proposed new Department is described in the President's June
18 message to Congress:

http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2002/06/gwb061802.html

The text of the bill itself is here:

http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2002/06/hls-bill.html

It wouldn't be a Bush Administration initiative if it didn't
include new restrictions on public access to official
information. And sure enough, section 204 of the draft bill
would create a new exemption from the Freedom of Information Act
for "information provided voluntarily by non-Federal entities or
individuals that relates to infrastructure vulnerabilities or
other vulnerabilities to terrorism and is or has been in the
possession of the Department."


CODE TALKERS HONORED

The House of Representatives passed legislation yesterday to
honor the Sioux "code talkers" who provided secure
communications in their language for American forces during
World War II. See:

http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2002_cr/hr3250.html

The better known Navajo code talkers were similarly honored last
year. A detailed history of the Navajo code talkers was
published in the Winter 2001 issue of Prologue, the quarterly of
the National Archives and Records Administration. See:

http://www.archives.gov/media_desk/press_releases/nr02-64.html


******************************
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.

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_______________________
Steven Aftergood
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists
web:  www.fas.org/sgp/index.html
email: saftergood@fas.org
voice: (202) 454-4691




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