Re: [xmca] Fwd: The Three C's - Security Clearances, Research Contracts, and AERA Concerns

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Fri Apr 06 2007 - 17:59:25 PDT

1984 arrived a little late.

On 4/6/07 5:33 PM, "David Preiss" <> wrote:

> Oh my god!
> Begin forwarded message:
>> From: "AERA Executive Director, Felice J. Levine" <aera-
>> Date: April 6, 2007 4:06:53 PM GMT-04:00
>> To:
>> Subject: The Three C's - Security Clearances, Research Contracts,
>> and AERA Concerns
>> Reply-To: "AERA Executive Director, Felice J. Levine" <aera-
>> April 6, 2007
>> Dear AERA Members:
>> As final bags and boxes are being closed for the 2007 AERA Annual
>> Meeting, I want to update you on an important matter for education
>> researchers working under federal contracts. Over the course of
>> this past year, the U.S. Department of Education has taken new
>> steps to implement security clearance procedures for contractor
>> employees. Several AERA members informed the Association and
>> expressed serious concern that the process is intrusive and
>> unwarranted for non-classified research. Articles on the topic have
>> appeared recently in The New York Times
>> (
>> 11privacy.htmlex=1328850000&en=57277d56f1770fb6&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt
>> &emc=rss) and Education Week (
>> 2007/02/21/24checks.h26.html).
>> Over many months, AERA has been investigating this situation and
>> pressing for greater understanding. Since September, we have been
>> engaged in discussions with numerous federal officials at the
>> Department of Education and other federal agencies as well as
>> working with other research organizations (in particular with the
>> American Association for the Advancement of Science) and
>> individuals in the scientific community to scrutinize this issue
>> and learn as much as we can. President Eva Baker described some of
>> these activities in the January/February 2007 issue of Educational
>> Researcher (
>> The actual clearance procedures required of contractual personnel
>> vary by the risk level assigned to a position, but minimally
>> require employees on contracts who are designated low risk to
>> submit fingerprints. Low risk positions include those on a
>> contractor¹s research team who conduct statistical analyses, but
>> have no access to personally-identifiable information. Contractor
>> employees in moderate-risk positions must provide a release for
>> credit information and may also be asked to sign a release allowing
>> investigators to ask specific questions of an individual¹s health
>> care provider regarding prior mental health consultations.
>> Researchers who collect or have access to personally-identifiable
>> information or sensitive, but unclassified information are
>> considered moderate risk under current Department of Education
>> Directive OM:5-101, Contractor Employee Personnel Security Screenings.
>> Our goal has been to understand the authority underlying the
>> changes, determine whether the situation is unique to the
>> Department of Education, and to effectuate change where needed. Our
>> efforts in the fall, for example, led the Department of Education
>> to indicate that the directive would be revised and its
>> implementation examined. Most recently, the Department of Education
>> also confirmed that the medical/mental health release was not
>> required for moderate-risk positions (at least as an initial step).
>> At our urging, agency officials agreed to add an instruction to
>> this effect so that contracting officers and contractors would be
>> aware of this at the onset.
>> An overarching concern is about the appropriate scope of security
>> clearance procedures. The security measures being implemented by
>> the Department of Education may reach beyond what was originally
>> intended under Presidential Directive HSPD-12, the key authority
>> often cited by federal officials as extending security clearance
>> procedures to contractors. Both the Directive and the Office of
>> Management and Budget guidance for implementing the Directive focus
>> on contractors who access federal facilities and critical
>> information systems, not researchers who are engaged in primary
>> data collection or use of these data in the field. We are seeking
>> an interpretation from senior federal officials regarding the
>> intended reach of the Presidential Directive and anticipate
>> receiving clarification quite soon.
>> Our fact gathering thus far indicates that security clearance
>> procedures vary by agency. The National Science Foundation, for
>> example, does not typically require security clearance screenings
>> for contractors who collect data or prepare analytical products for
>> the agency. At the National Institute of Justice, only those
>> contractors who need access to federal buildings or information
>> systems must generally undergo security clearances. Currently, the
>> U.S. Department of Education‹relying on Directive OM:5-101‹requires
>> a security screening process for all contractors employed for 30
>> days or more. Although, as noted above, this Directive is currently
>> in the final stages of revision, Department officials have
>> indicated that the changes are directed to clarifying the intent of
>> the policy as it is currently being practiced‹that is, that it
>> covers all contracts.
>> We remain concerned about the collection of credit information and
>> fingerprints for researchers who work in the field and have no
>> access to federal facilities or information systems. While we
>> recognize and appreciate the renewed efforts of federal officials
>> to provide the best protections possible for personally
>> identifiable information collected by researchers‹and indeed, we as
>> an Association are continuously engaged in exercises and
>> initiatives to improve privacy and confidentiality protections‹the
>> measures must be balanced and appropriate to the circumstances.
>> In a post 9-11 world, there could be a reasoned need for those
>> performing work for the federal government in federal facilities or
>> on federal data bases to undergo security clearances at a level
>> appropriate to the types of access. The issue of the
>> appropriateness of security clearance procedures that are broader
>> in scope ultimately hinges on whether there is a compelling basis
>> to do so. The federal government has an interest in supporting
>> research and attracting researchers‹whether working under grants or
>> contracts‹of the highest quality and creativity. We take the view
>> that any constraints need to be the minimum necessary to achieve
>> legitimate goals. Thus, we await clarification of the scope of the
>> security clearance requirements and the rationale underlying them.
>> Our next steps depend on what we learn.
>> For now, I want to keep you, our members, informed and to let you
>> know that this topic‹as a matter of sound research policy‹is very
>> much on the active agenda of staff and of strong interest to AERA
>> Council and the AERA Government Relations (GR) Committee. Both
>> Council and the GR Committee have this topic on their business
>> agendas at the Annual Meeting. Meanwhile, please e-mail me if you
>> have knowledge or experiences that we should be aware of as we
>> continue to address the issue of security clearances for
>> contractual research employees.
>> I look forward to seeing many of you in Chicago.
>> Warm regards,
>> Felice
>> Felice J. Levine, PhD
>> Executive Director
>> We take your privacy very seriously.
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