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Two other thoughts are pertinent here. Security arrangements cost money. Their efficient and economical use also suggest that information no longer in need of official protection should be declassified or removed from government control as soon as possible. Also, there is the integrity of the classification or protection system itself to take into account. Justice Potter Stewart poignantly commented on this consideration over a decade ago in his concurring opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, when he stated:

For when everything is classified, then nothing is classified, and the system becomes one to be disregarded by the cynical or the careless, and to be manipulated by those intent on self-protection or self-promotion. I should suppose, in short, that the hallmark of a truly effective internal security system would be the maximum possible disclosure, recognizing that secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained.

In sum, the policy point under discussion here probably was stated in its simplest terms in the Carter Administration's security classification order: 'Declassification of classified information shall be given emphasis comparable to that accorded classification. ***7


Government application of national security restrictions to the communication of scientific research and knowledge should be made with an awareness of the often temporary value of the information in question. A scientific discovery made today may soon be replicated or surpassed tomorrow. Government officials restricting the disclosure or communication of scientific information must be aware of this ongoing and unending process. The report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy commented that "it is unlikely that classified information will remain secure for periods as long as five years, and it is more reasonable to assume that it will become known by others in periods as short as one year through independent discovery, clandestine disclosure, or other means.' Accordingly, the Task Force recommended automatic declassification scheduling, suggesting a general guideline period of "between one and five years for complete declassification," and permitting continuation of official secrecy "only if clear evidence is presented that changed circumstances make such an extension necessary.'



Automatic termination dates are an action forcing mechanism: officials must conduct a review of protected information in order to continue restrictions on its disclosure or communication. The Invention Secrecy Act provides that a secrecy order may remain in effect for not more than one year, subject to a possible renewal." By contrast, E.O. 12356, the current security classification policy directive, states:

Information shall be classified as long as required by national security considerations. When it can be determined, a specific date or event for declassification shall be set by the original classification authority at the time the information is originally classified."

Specifically required termination dates militate against the possibility of particular information remaining under continued official secrecy or communications restrictions after actual conditions no longer warrant such protection.

The number of persons given security clearance to examine scientific information maintained under official secrecy should be kept to a minimum. This consideration is premised on at least three expectations arising from ideas discussed earlier: the quantity of scientific research findings and knowledge placed under security classification will be

Shrouding the Endless Frontier-Scientific Communication and National Security

small, will contain little or no basic research information, and will be subject to automatic declassification procedures. Three practical thoughts underlie this proposition. Security clearance costs would be cut." Official secrets would be better protected because fewer individuals would have access to them, thereby reducing the possibilities of accidental disclosure or leaks. Some government scientists now somewhat restrained by security obligations consequently might more freely make valuable contributions to their profession and to society. With regard to this particular point, Dr. Berkner has commented:

the maintenance of secrecy over large areas of technical information condition the scientist to miss the conception of militarily valuable ideas. Although responsible men resist such conditioning, the resulting frustrations inevitably reduce his creative effectiveness."

His remark seems to suggest that scientists, granted relief from the closed environment produced by security requirements and official secrecy, might apply their talents more effectively to a variety of national problems, including the country's defense situation.

An underlying principle of any policy permitting the government to apply national security restrictions to the communication of scientific research findings or knowledge should be to maintain the security of scientific progress. It is through such progress that the United States strengthens its economy, knowledge as a people, and educational and defense capabilities. Unfettered communication is a vital feature of scientific progress—all findings ideally should be publicly and generally available, and open to criticism, verification, improvement, and, if necessary, rejection. The consequences of limitations were well appreciated by the Defense Science Board Task Force on University Responsiveness to National Security Requirements and by Acting Under Secretary of Defense George Millburn when they both indicated that, if the Department of Defense **attempts to regulate the flow of scientific information in the scientific community, it could jeopardize the strength and vitality of the very community it is seeking to revitalize for the sake of national defense."'"

Similarly, momentary changes in our relationships with other countries may prompt some officials to seek increased protection of certain scientific information for reasons of national security. A Department of Defense study committee warned against such actions many years ago when it recommended avoiding “changing the scope of classified information to reflect temporary changes in emphasis in our foreign policy.'

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Scientific discovery, however, does not occur in a vacuum, unaffected by a society's values and needs. Once publicized, a scientific finding is available for anyone to use; it can be utilized in diverse ways, with consequences that may be good or bad, or commonly a complicated mixture of both. When particular scientific research findings or knowledge clearly convey a military advantage or contribute to new or improved implements of war, then the pathway is open to government protection of that information or restriction of its communication for reasons of national security. However, in preparing the balance sheet for such policy, the considerations discussed here should be included.

Widespread government application of national security restrictions to the communication of scientific research findings or knowledge are incompatible with the public policy function of a democracy. Discussing this consideration in terms reminiscent of Lasswell's words, Dr. Berkner wrote that "sound policy results from the careful ex



amination of facts by people of a nation in light of their diverse training and interests.”* Continuing, he stated:

Secrecy prevents the discussion necessary to such examination, and compartmentalization prevents proper evaluation even by trained scientists. The press and other public media are the sources of the background intelligence that most influences our policy-makers and military leaders. No adequate substitute can be found in internal intelligence because information unevaluated by public debate lacks the convincing quality that results from public review.≫

There is another principle which is relevant to this consideration. The citizenry of a democracy must have access to information in order that they may perform their civic duties. Over a century and a half ago, James Madison stated the point in the following eloquent and memorable terms:

A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

At the outset of the American struggle for nationhood, the Declaration of Independence, consistent with Eighteenth Century suspicion of the state, reflected the Enlightenment assumption that neither society nor government is organic or natural to human existence. In the view of the English philosopher John Locke, whose ideas were quite familiar to the Founding Fathers, individuals contract with each other to conduct social intercourse, and subsequently establish a governing institution to protect pre-societal or "natural" rights as well as to facilitate social affairs. Implied in this arrangement is the right to withdraw from the contract when government does not fulfill its responsibilities.

In this regard, the Declaration, after postulating that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed," recognizes that the state can become destructive of the rights of the citizenry. But, because there is popular "consent" to, but not **submission" to, the government exercising certain powers, such consent or support can be withdrawn when the state assumes non-delegated responsibilities, abuses its authority, or corrupts itself in the exercise of power. In order to judge the propriety of government intentions or actions, the citizenry must have information about the activities and operations of the state. In brief, the people must be watchful of their government in order to preserve popular rule.

Later, with the ratification of the Constitution, this concept of an informed citizenry received further expression in First Amendment guarantees of freedom to discuss public business, a privilege previously reserved for members of the legislature; freedom of the press, to inform the people and assist them in maintaining their watchful vigil over the state; and freedom to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” which could include presentations against state secrecy or seeking official information.

There is no obligation in the Constitution compelling the American populace to trust its government. Departments and agencies should be willing to disclose information responsibly, not only to enhance public knowledge of their activities and policy pronouncements, but also to cultivate a degree of trust or to dispel distrust.

Widespread government application of national security restrictions to the communication of scientific research findings and knowledge keeps the public ignorant of the

Shrouding the Endless Frontier-Scientific Communication and National Security


adjustments it must make in the face of technological change. Noting that **(failure to make adjustments to an evolving environment has in the past led to the extinction of a species," Dr. Berkner has warned that "the desire to make such adjustment can emerge in the human species only from a sound understanding of the alternatives as they become clear from public debate, or from the ultimate disaster into which society blunders.**58 Similarly, the report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy commented that classification of technical information impedes its flow within our own system, and, may easily do far more harm than good by stifling critical discussion and review or by engendering frustration." The report noted the incidence of "many cases in which the declassification of technical information within our system probably had a beneficial effect and its classification has had a deleterious one...."""

The strength and safety of the United States, in both the domestic and international contexts, depends, in no small part, on the ability of its citizenry to adjust to technological change. Continuous vigilance must be exercised to prevent governmental secrecy in the interest of national security from being used so frequently or becoming so pervasive that it conceals technological changes so that an unsuspecting public necessarily must adjust to them in desperation, if it can do so at all.

Widespread government application of national security restrictions to information about national capabilities in science and technology may lead an enemy to underestimate our power and encourage irresponsible adventures leading to war. This consideration seemingly assumes that government officials do not leak secret technological information of military or national security significance. Of course, some do. The motives for these anonymous, informal, and unauthorized disclosures are many and serious cold war one-upmanship figures among them. The process is one of targeted communication: selected secret technological data is passed to a trusted journalist who publicizes it in a conspicuous exclusive story which is readily obtained by foreign intelligence services. The same objective-making the strength of the United States better known to its international foes-might be realized in a more legitimate manner by reducing, as deemed appropriate, the amount of technological information under national security control. Some decrease in information security administrative costs probably would result. The credibility of government secrecy or restriction for the technological information remaining under national security protection seemingly would be increased. And additional benefits might derive from scientists' evaluations, interpretations, clarifications, and applications of such heretofore safeguarded technological information.



Almost two centures ago, James Madison made the following observation to his friend, Thomas Jefferson: "Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.... Today, the military capabilities of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies constitute a real threat to the continued existence of the United States. But the national security of the United States cannot be understood in terms of the military capabilities of the Communist bloc alone. Fraught with risk and ultimate dangers, national security policies must be broadly conceived and formulated in such a way that conflicting views are taken into account and subjected to the discipline of debate and exposure to available knowledge.



The preservation of cherished liberty in the United States owes much to this policymaking process. Moreover, our tradition of liberty certainly has contributed in no small part to the tremendous accomplishments of scientists in this country, accomplishments that are themselves not without national security significance. Thus, any attempt by government to restrict scientific enterprise must be thoroughly examined and subjected to the rigors and demands of that cautious and considered policymaking procedure that has served us so well in the past. A balance sheet on our present and prospective position regarding any new national security policy must be prepared, debated, and assessed with great care. And a warning from the past must once again be pondered: **... without scientific progress no amount of achievement in other directions can insure our health, prosperity, and security as a nation in the modern world.'

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A lengthier version of this article will appear in a book of essays on the controversy over increased national security restriction of scientific communication. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not attributable to any other source.


1. See National Academy of Sciences. Scientific Communication and National Security (Washington, National Academy Press, 1982), pp. 39-48.

2. Vannevar Bush. Science-The Endless Frontier (Washington, National Science Foundation, 1980; originally published 1945), p. 190; Cf. Ibid., p. 29.

3. National Academy of Sciences, Scientific Communication and National Security, p. 45.

4. Harold D. Lasswell. National Security and Individual Freedom (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1950), pp. 55-56.

5. See 22 C.F.R. Part 121-130 (1982); a proposed version of the regulations was published in 1980, but another draft has been under preparation for some time; see 45 F.R. 83970-83995 (December 19, 1980). 6. See 50 U.S.C. App. 2401-2420, the Expon Administration Act of 1979, as amended, expired automatically on October 14, 1983, but Congress continued to consider legislation revising and renewing the statute. 50 U.S.C. App. 2419 and 97 Star. 744.

7. Lloyd V. Berkner. "Secrecy and Scientific Progress.” Science, 123 (May 4, 1956):783.

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12. See 22 U.S.C. 2751-2794 and 50 US.C. App. 2401-2420 which are the primary but not exclusive authorities concerning export licensing requirements.

13. This article derives from "Shrouding the Endless Frontier-Scientific Communication and National Security: The Search for Balance," a paper prepared in 1982 for the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The author especially thanks John Edsall, Lotte Feinberg. Roban Gellman, Dorothy Nelkin, Herman Pollock, Eric Stover, and Gerald Sturges for their comments and suggestions on drafts of the paper.

14. For other ideas and considerations, see, for example, National Academy of Sciences, Scientific Com· munication and National Security, pp. 52-64.

15. Bush, Science-The Endless Frontier, pp. 18-19.


U.S. Department of Defense. Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering. Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy (Washington, D. C. July 1, 1970), p. 1.

17. E.O. 12356, section 1.6(b), in 47 F.R. 14877 (Apnl 6, 1982).


U. S. Department of Defense. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense of Research and Engineering.

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