A law that has barred scientists from "sensitive" countries such as China, Russia, and Iran from visiting U.S. nuclear laboratories for much of the past year will be lifted October 12.
Concerned about the Department of Energy's perceived lapses in safeguarding nuclear secrets, Congress approved the law last year as part of the fiscal year 2000 National Defense Authorization Act. The ban, which entered into force in November 1999, barred visits to Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia National Laboratories by citizens or agents of a nation on the State Department's classified "sensitive countries" list.
In addition, the law prohibited contact with lab scientists and use of computer facilities, including unclassified systems. Although a limited number of waivers to the restriction were approved, the ban disrupted normal contact between U.S. scientists and their foreign counterparts, adversely impacting lab-to-lab cooperative activities.
The legislation specified that the ban would be lifted 45 days after the director of the FBI, the director of the CIA, and the Department of Energy's director of counterintelligence submitted to Congress a written certification that the laboratories' foreign visitor programs had satisfied a set of counterintelligence and security-related requirements outlined in the law.
Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson submitted those certifications, each based on extensive review, to Congress August 28. CIA Director George Tenet stated in his letter that the Department of Energy now has in place a system that can provide "adequate security and counterintelligence measures."