APS News

Council Denounces Blanket Polygraphs

In a statement passed at its April 27 meeting, the APS Council revisited the issue of the relationship between national security and science at the DOE weapons laboratories. The statement attacks the idea of blanket or routine polygraphs of laboratory personnel, saying that "the morale of the workforce would be damaged seriously" thereby. The text of the statement follows.

Two years ago, the Council of the American Physical Society issued a statement on National Security and the Open Conduct of Science. The Council reaffirms three propositions central to that statement:

There is a "critical connection between US national security and scientific research activities;"

"Effective national security requires the highest standards of vigilance and circumspection;"

And "the science on which [national security] is based must meet the highest standards of excellence."

To maintain the scientific vitality of the weapons laboratories, the Council therefore recommends that:

  • Restrictions on scientific interchange of unclassified information be eliminated to the maximum extent possible, including limitations on foreign visitors and on travel by laboratory personnel.
  • There be no blanket polygraph testing of personnel at weapons laboratories.

The Council notes that the strength and effectiveness of the weapons laboratories requires a scientific workforce of the highest caliber. The morale of that workforce would be damaged seriously by a program of polygraph testing so routinely applied that it calls into question the integrity of individuals who are devoting their careers to national purpose. As the Council previously noted, morale would also be damaged by "any negative characterization of scientists on the basis of ethnic or national origins." Only by attracting and retaining outstanding scientists can the weapons laboratories continue to perform their critical national security role.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette