Friday, 20 March 1987 Washington, DC
THE THREAT OF GOVERNMENT CONTROLS ON ELECTRONIC DATABASES
that contain "sensitive but unclassified information" has
receded, at least
temporarily (WN 27 Feb 87). In a stunning
reversal of policy, Frank Carlucci, the new National Security
Advisor to the President, announced in a conciliatory letter to
Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX), Chairman of the Government Operations
Committee, that NTISSP-2, the notorious "Poindexter Memorandum,"
was being rescinded. It was this directive that defined
"sensitive but unclassified information" as information affecting
"national security or other Federal Government interests," a
definition that could fit a giraffe. Carlucci also said that
NSDD 145, National Policy on Telecommunications and Automated
Information Systems Security, which in Brook's words created a
"shadow government," was being reviewed. The reversal is
attributable to the solid opposition of groups such as the
library associations and scientific societies.
Although Carlucci declined to testify on grounds of
executive privilege, he refused to extend that protection to
Poindexter. showed up before the Committee on Tuesday, but
confined himself to puffing on his pipe taking the Fifth.
Secretary of Commerce Baldrige and Deputy Secretary of Defense
Taft testified that responsibility for computer security should
be moved to a civilian agency.
Perhaps the most significant testimony on Tuesday came at
the end, after most of the press had left to file their stories.
Harold Relyea of the Library of Congress discussed the whole
phenomenon of National Security Decision Directives (NSDD's).
Out of some 200 NSDD's, all but five are secret, and are not
generally available even to Congress. They have apparently been
used to authorize such things as the disinformation campaign
against Libya and $50M for Argentina to train Contras. He said
they bring us very close to the most dangerous practice of
totalitarian government -- rule by secret law.
. AT THE SPECIAL SESSION ON HIGH Tc SUPERCONDUCTORS
at the APS
meeting on Wednesday, thousands of scientists overflowed the
ballroom of the New York Hilton into corridors and lobby areas
where monitors were set up. The meeting did not end until 3:15
a.m. on Thursday, when the last of the five-minute reports was
given. Perhaps the most important news was that everyone seems
to be able to produce 90+K material. A group in Karlsruhe showed
a good transition at 125K. Asked by a reporter about room
temperature superconductors, Paul Chu noted that the first
applications will be in electronics, and on the dark-side of a
satellite, 90K is above room temperature. The astonishing pace
of developments at Zurich, Tokyo, Beijing, Houston, Murray Hill,
and elsewhere, is testament to the progress that can be made in
the absence of constraints on scientific communication.