Friday, 23 Jul 1993 Washington, DC
1. NATIONAL SECURITY CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM IS UNDERGOING REVIEW.
In 1982, Ronald Reagan reversed a 30-year trend toward reduced
classification with Executive Order 12356. His order could be
paraphrased as, "when in doubt, classify." And classify they did,
2,000,000 new documents that year alone. The order even allowed
reclassification of documents that had been declassified. President
Clinton directed the Information Security Oversight Office
(ISOO) to lead an interagency task force in drafting a revised
classification system by 30 November 1993. But groups favoring
major revision are skeptical; ISOO is run by the same people that
have been in charge of the secrecy system for the past 12 years.
While no one questions the need for secrecy in a dangerous world,
the cost of excessive classification has been high. Protected
from normal scientific scrutiny and debate, erroneous scientific
information and flawed technical concepts were used as the basis
of costly and impractical programs. A critical 1987 APS study of
the directed energy weapons that were the basis of the SDI was
held up for more than seven months awaiting declassification.
2. THE $350M QUESTION: FUND BEST IDEAS OR FUND NEEDY DISTRICTS?
The Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institute
of Standards and Technology are cooperating in the distribution
of $350M for the new Technology Reinvestment Program intended to
help businesses hurt by defense downsizing to diversify. "We will
pursue the best ideas--we have a long-range view," ARPA director,
Gary Denman, assured the House Technology Subcommittee. The money
"will allow industry to take a risk it wouldn't be able to take
otherwise." The government absorbs the risk; industry takes the
product to market. But subcommittee members from some of the
hardest hit regions had one question: "What about my district?"
As Jane Harman (D-CA) saw it, "Open competition is fine, but you
have to explain why some states aren't funded." Dana Rohrabacher
(R-CA) was more specific, "You should be trying to save the
aerospace industry." NIST and ARPA anticipate over 4000 proposals.
3. BUT ARE MURDERS IN WASHINGTON BEING COMMITTED MORE HUMANELY?
Physicist John Hagelin promised to reduce violent crime by having
one thousand TM experts meditate coherently
(WN 25 Jun 93). Oops!
Preliminary results suggest they got the polarity wrong; homicide
hit a record high level. But, at a press conference yesterday,
Hagelin offered a lesson in data analysis: although murder is up
from a year ago, there has been a decrease of 2.3% in "brutal
crime." A clean shot between the eyes maybe. Could the drop in
brutal crime be due to the increase in D.C. police surveillance
and a new summer jobs program? Those programs, Professor Hagelin
explained, have been more than offset by the heat wave--so the
field must be working. Patched through to the press conference
via satellite link from Holland, Zen master Maharishi Yogi, the
intellectual force behind the experiment, explained the success
of the experiment: "No one wants to be shot--it's painful." Amen.