Indictment spurs DOE to step up polygraphs

The Energy Department has issued new counterintelligence regulations that call for polygraph examinations for at least 800 employees, including high-level political appointees, who have access to highly classified information and computer systems.

The new rules, issued Monday, follow the Justice Department's indictment on Dec. 10 of a former DOE employee, Wen Ho Lee, on 59 counts of altering, concealing and removing sensitive data from classified computer systems at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. According to the indictment, Lee is alleged to have collected information from a classified network and then altered and downloaded the information to an unclassified portion of the network "with the intent to injure the United States and with the intent to secure an advantage to a foreign nation."

In a memorandum sent this week to all DOE department heads, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said the questions that will be asked as part of DOE's new Counterintelligence Polygraph Implementation Plan will be limited to "narrowly focused topics of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, intentional unauthorized disclosure of classified information...and deliberate damage or malicious misuse of a U.S. government or defense system."

Out of the 800 DOE and contractor personnel targeted by the new polygraph rule, many will come from offices involved in cybersecurity. For example, positions within the Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance and the Office of Safeguards and Security will test personnel who are regularly engaged in cybersecurity assessments and digital file transfer operations, according to the memorandum.

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