PDD/NSC 61 Energy Department Counterintelligence February 1998

In 1995 US officials became concerned that China might have acquired sensitive information from American nuclear weapons laboratories in the mid-1980s. The administration began working to tighten security at our weapons labs and prevent future breaches.

DOE prepared a broad assessment of two decades of Chinese efforts to acquire nuclear weapons information from the United States and in July 1997 briefed senior administration officials on its conclusions. DOE’s briefings focused attention on the need to address long-term security problems at the US nuclear labs, and within weeks, the administration created a special working group of the National Counterintelligence Policy Board to make recommendations for strengthening lab security.

The board’s recommendations, forwarded in September 1997, became the basis for a Presidential Decision Directive (PDD-61), issued in February 1998. In the directive, President Clinton ordered the Department of Energy to establish a stronger counterintelligence program. Then-Secretary Federico Pena set up an independent Office of Counterintelligence, which began an intensive review of the counterintelligence program. Energy Department implementation of the requirements of PDD-61 has included:

  • hiring counterintelligence professionals to be based at the weapons labs
  • doubling the budget for counterintelligence
  • changing the screening and the approval process for foreign scientists seeking access to DOE labs
  • making the lab directors directly accountable for foreign visits.
  • instituting more extensive security reviews — including the use of polygraphs — for DOE scientists working in sensitive programs.

The text of PDD-61 has not been released, and there is no White House Factsheet summarizing its provisions. However, one component of this PDD, relating to Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM), is reproduced here.