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Energy Department will scrutinize e-mail at nuclear labs


January 16, 2001

The Department of Energy is launching a pilot program at its nuclear laboratories to test whether e-mail monitoring is an effective crime deterrent.

The agency will use a computer program, Electronic Mail Analysis Capability (EMAC), to monitor and analyze outgoing and incoming e-mail from the National Nuclear Security Administration and Energy Department laboratories where nuclear weapons are designed.

“With EMAC, the counterintelligence office will be able to potentially address what information is coming and going out of the whole complex,” an Energy Department spokeswoman said.

EMAC was developed in response Presidential Decision Directive 61, “Energy Department Counterintelligence.” In it, President Clinton ordered Energy to reorganize its counterintelligence measures and commissioned Energy’s chief of counterintelligence to complete a comprehensive study of agency security practices.

The pilot program is scheduled to run from January to June at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, both in New Mexico, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State. Contractors and subcontractors are also required to comply with the EMAC program.

EMAC applies a set of filtering criteria to all messages sent and received at the pilot labs. When e-mail messages trigger the filters, the suspect messages are automatically saved on a CD-ROM. The Office of Counterintelligence and the General Counsel must then sign off on the messages, which are filtered again to remove any classified information that does not relate to the suspected breach of information. The parts of the messages that remain are then pulled and reviewed. Messages that trigger the filters are automatically deleted from the system.

The program is being run as a pilot test “to make sure that the filters they are using are the right ones,” the spokeswoman explained. “If they don’t work, then they know to be more specific with their keywords.”

In April 1999, the General Accounting Office reported that the Energy Department had ignored security risks at nuclear weapons labs for decades and had failed to hold responsible officials accountable for security lapses. Later that same year, Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Los Alamos lab, was fired for allegedly downloading nuclear information to unsecured computer tapes. Lee pled guilty in September to one count of mishandling nuclear secrets and was sentenced to time he had already served.

Tanya N. Ballard, emailtoday.com


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