Energy Department has more secrets than it can review, officials say

February 07, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- American makers of nuclear weapons have been classifying virtually everything for so long that the Energy Department now has more secrets than it can cope with, and the department and its contractors may have released information they should have kept secret, officials said yesterday.

The department has 100 million pages of documents that it wants to review for possible release but does not have the resources to do the reviewing. It is spending $3 million to develop a computer program to scan the documents and make an initial assessment.

"I want to see a moat, if you will,filled with alligators, that separates what really impacts national security from all the chaff," said Albert Narath, the chairman of a committee that drafted a new classification policy.

The management and winnowing of the classified material came up in the context of a news conference yesterday at which, as expected, the department released a comprehensive history of plutonium production and use in the last 50 years.

In the department's current scheme, ideas are "classified at birth," or presumed secret until proved otherwise, and some department officials and employees of contractors have lost track of what needs to be kept quiet.

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