Senators aim to put DOE security measures into law

In the wake of the recent alleged spy case involving nuclear weapons information, a group of senators said today they would put into law the recommendations laid out by an advisory panel this month aimed at improving security problems at the Energy Department.

At a joint Senate hearing, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), said that he, along with Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), will offer an amendment to the fiscal 2000 intelligence authorization bill when it comes to the floor to implement the recommendations of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board report.

The panel's report, which comes about three months after President Clinton ordered a comprehensive review of security failures at DOE, recommends creating a semiautonomous or autonomous nuclear weapons agency within DOE.

The report also recommends that the weapons labs institute a broad and detailed program to protect all computer workstations, networks, links and related systems from all forms of potential compromise. In addition, document controls for the most sensitive weapons data should be re-instituted, and new classification guidance to define and ensure awareness of information and technologies that require protection should be introduced, the report said.

"To achieve the kind of protection that these sensitive labs must have, they and their functions must have their own autonomous operational structure free of all the other obligations imposed by DOE management," Murkowski said in his testimony. The structure would be similar to how the National Security Agency and DARPA are set up, he said.

However, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said that while he has begun to implement some of the report's recommendations, he would oppose the creation a separate weapons agency within DOE that would not report directly to him.

Senate and DOE staff members were expected to attempt to iron out differences this afternoon and tomorrow before the expected vote on the intelligence authorization bill this week.

Today's Senate hearing was held by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Governmental Affairs Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence.

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