On DOE’s Polygraph Decision

Al Zelicoff, on the Department of Energy’s decision to back away from screening polygraphs:

First proposed in 1999 by Gov. Bill Richardson — then secretary of energy — during the uproar over alleged spying at the national labs, the lie detector policy elicited the derision of scientists everywhere. The American Psychological Association, the Federation of American Scientists, the Senior Scientists at Sandia Labs and the National Academy of Sciences uniformly rejected the Richardson’s contention that polygraphs would improve security.


  1. As you may recall this was another nothing controversy where the good people of the press made a mountain out of a molehill (probably more accurately described as followed a partisan down the rabbit hole). Since the whole controversy was a gossimer lie, why should the response have been any different.

    The press needs to do its job.

  2. Eli –

    I have some personal knowledge of the journalistic response to the Wen Ho Lee affair, having been directly involved in some of the coverage. I sat in court the day Lee was indicted, and returned the day he was set free.

    I would agree that the initial New York Times “expose” that launched the whole controversy was atrocious journalism. But in the months that followed, the press did its job, exposing the weaknesses in the Chinese spying allegationa against Lee. There was excellent work done by Bill Broad at the New York Times, by Dan Stober at the San Jose Mercury News, and by my colleague Ian Hoffman here at the Albuquerque Journal. There were a number of other reporters around the country who did not follow the Times’ initial reporting down the rabbit hole. The press, in other words, did its job, with journalistic peer review clearly and convincingly correcting the Times’ initial mistake.

    That the nation’s political machinery chose to continue pursue the initial “Chinese spying” meme rather than accept the weight of the evidence that was on the table long before Lee was even arrested says more about the failings of the political establishment than of the press.

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