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DOE's Close and Continuing Contact Rules

If you go to work at one of the nuclear weapons labs, secrecy becomes an important component of your life. This includes not just secrecy about your research or information you might know that is classified. It also extends to every aspect of your life. The official justification for this is that if you have a lifestyle or activities that put you at risk for being corrupted, bribed, or otherwise subverted, the government needs to know about it to head off such subversion. Secrecy at the labs doesn't just involve security clearances and background checks. It is an ongoing thing that becomes part of everything you do. It governs who you talk to and what you can say. It gives you access to knowledge few citizens have, and at the same time isolate you in a world few can enter. This secrecy is accomplished, not just by the surveillance you see and know about, but through self-surveillance as well. To be truly effective, you must internalize the surveillance and, as Gusterson states in his anthropological study of the nuclear weapons labs, “keep a watchful eye on (your)self on the government's behalf”. (Nuclear Rites. Hugh Gusterson, 1996. University of California Press. p. 83).

The recent spy scandals at Los Alamos National Lab have resulted in tightened security and much more scrutiny on lab employee relationships with foreign nationals. The assumption, made clear in the following document, is that just by having a relationship, of almost any degree, with a foreigner, you may be at risk of being subverted. Thus, the government not only delves deep into your private life and preferences when you are investigated for a security clearance, but you are required to report any “close and continuing” contact with foreign country nationals. Since this gets into tricky waters very quickly, DOE has tried to define the term for you. The end result of their efforts, however, is to make it clear that any contact has the potential for trouble. To protect yourself, you're safer reporting everything. Thus the system for self-monitoring becomes seamless.

What secrecy does to your life, in the end, is to make every relationship questionable. When it comes to foreigners, it is not up to you to decide when “not close” becomes “close” and where the line exists on personal information. When in doubt, ask DOE. Since it is likely to create a problem for your file if you are constantly reporting contacts with foreigners, the safest course is to avoid having any relationship with foreigners at all. In time you will become a more effective security watchdog over yourself than DOE could ever hope to be. Like the lab employee who went ballroom dancing for years, without ever telling his dance partner he worked at the lab, you will live in a closed world, and limit your trust to those who live there with you.

To highlight the true lack of privacy you have if you become a lab employee working with classified information, we've taken the liberty of translating DOE' official description of what they call “close and continuing contact” with foreign nationals. This type of contact must be reported to the government.

DOE's Official Definition

1. Close Contact. For DOE purposes, the term “close contact” with a foreign national is defined as a relationship that (a) involves bonds of affection and/or personal obligation, and/or (b) where the employee and the foreign national share private time together in a public or private setting where sensitive professional and personal information is discussed or is the target of discussion. Information discussed between an employee and foreign national may make the contact reportable even though the relationship has not reached the stage involving bonds of affection and/or obligation.

English Translation: Bonds of affection might also mean just plain lust (see subpart a) or the beginning, thrilling stages of courtship, or maybe just friendship. Personal obligation could be monetary or simply debts of gratitude. Since you may discuss information that might be problematic, even if you hardly know the other person, your safest bet is to report any contact you have with a foreigner, rather than worry about the finer shadings of nuance. After all, who can really tell when a generally pleasant attitude towards someone will become a “bond of affection”?

a. Sexual or otherwise intimate relationships. Personnel do not have to report one-time sexual or otherwise intimate contact with a foreign national if (a) there will be no future contact with the foreign national, and (b) the foreign national does not seek classified or sensitive information, and (c) there is no indication that personnel are the target of actual or attempted exploitation. However, if it is likely that future social contact with the foreign national will occur - even if the future contact is expected to be in non-close (non-sexual) social settings - the relationship must be reported as close and continuing contact. If personnel have sexual or otherwise intimate contact on more than one occasion with the same foreign national, regardless of circumstances or likelihood for follow-up contact, the relationship must be reported as close and continuing contact, even if there is no expectation of future contact. Such contact must be reported regardless of whether the foreign national's full name and other biographic data are known or unknown.

English Translation: One night stands do not count, unless you expect to have future flings, or, and this is important, you might see that person again, even if it is not in some sleazy hotel room. So if you go to a conference, drink too much at the opening reception, and wind up in bed with a fellow conferee, you probably would have to report that as a “close contact”, since you will likely see this person again, either at the conference, or at future scientific events. This applies even if you barely recall the “contact” and had a coyote morning (i.e. would rather have chewed off your arm to sneak out of the bed unnoticed than remain there). You must report this contact even if you have no idea of the name of the person, or any other data about him/her. Your report should read something like this: “I had sex at a conference in (insert city name), with a woman/man who (insert description -tall/short, brunette/blond,) who I think was from (insert possible country list). I saw her/him again the next day at the sessions, but didn't get close enough to read her/his nametag because I was too embarrassed.”

b. Non-sexual, essentially private, social contacts, where the employee and foreign national share private time together in a public or private setting, and where sensitive professional and personal information is discussed or is the focus of discussion. Such a relationship may or may not involve the establishment of bonds of affection and/or personal obligation (akin to a traditional dating relationship).

English Translation: If you have lunch with a foreign attractive member of the opposite sex (or same sex, depending on your persuasion), and you talk about your life, you must report this. Ditto if you have lunch and the person is not attractive (to you at least), and you talk about your life, you must report this.


Los Alamos Study Group • 2901 Summit Place NE • Albuquerque, NM 87106 • ph 505-265-1200

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