Friday, December 29, 2006
Just Say "No!"
Brad Holian sent this to me to be posted on The Blog. In his e-mail, he assured me that he would be among the first signatories of the two letters he has proposed. In this case, all signatures would have to be real, with e-mail addresses attached; no Anonymous's need apply: only LANL employees who want to stop the pending nightmare of lie-detector tests and peeing in the bottle. (Some fortitude may be required.)
-Pat, the Dog
[As of 1/2/2007, we have received the expected (from Anonymous, of course): "'Suck It Up', as the saying goes, and deal with it." Pat, the Dog, askz: Before, or after peeing in the cup? Makes a big diff...]
Dear readers of "LANL: The Corporate Story":
Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done in the next couple of weeks. It may be the only thing that will stop NNSA/DOE and LANS, LLC from implementing so-called "random" drug testing and polygraphs.
Polygraphy is an insulting affront to scientists, since a committee of the National Academy of Sciences has declared that, beyond being inadmissible in court, there is no scientific basis for polygraphs. In my opinion, by agreeing to be polygraphed, one thereby seriously jeopardizes his or her claim to being a scientist, which is presumably the principal reason for employment for many scientists at Los Alamos. Like polygraphs, drug testing may also be subject to intentional abuse by managers and false-positive errors, but imposing a "random" program upon workers at Los Alamos, or any other institution that aspires to being a place of scientific research, is unnecessarily expensive and an un-American intrusion upon our Constitutional privacy--just another example of the mentality behind "warrantless wiretapping."
Besides being open to nefarious abuses (such as being imposed more often upon outspoken, troublesome workers), random drug tests are convenient tools for lazy managers. A direct supervisor who is worth his or her pay, maintains close enough contact with workers to be able to detect and stop work that is not safe or secure, should inebriation or undue influence of drugs be observed. Upon being told to stop work, the worker in question can be called into the manager's office and told to enter into medical treatment; the worker's subsequent failure to do so can then trigger more justifiably serious measures, including firing. But "random" people ought not to be subjected to the indignity of drug testing, unless there is real probable cause--but then, it's not random, is it?
I would suggest to all readers here that NNSA/DOE/LANS will pause in their zeal to impose these un-American measures, only if a significant fraction of LANL staff signs their names to letters such as the ones proposed below:
I refuse to be subjected to polygraph testing for any reason whatsoever. Polygraphs are inadmissible in a court of law and have no scientific basis.
-Brad Lee Holian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I refuse to be subjected to drug testing, unless served with a search warrant signed by a judge in a court of appropriate jurisdiction, upon evidence having been presented that is deemed to meet the legal criteria for probable cause.
-Brad Lee Holian (email@example.com)
Imagine what an impact a sufficient number of LANL workers would have (including Lab Associates like myself, Lab Fellows, and other scientific leaders among the staff), if they were willing to sign such letters openly. It may well be our last chance.
--Brad Lee Holian
Laboratory Associate, LANL
Fellow, American Physical Society
(You may send any comments to my home e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Who wants to bet that aside from Brad, no one else at LANL has enough spine to make a stand.
LANS knows the staff are quivering in their hush puppies.
Pee in the bottle or hit the bricks. Allow us to strap you in, or hand over your badge. We'll empty your desk out for you. For the more academic-minded of you: this is a real-life example of what it means to be an "at-will" employee. Still glad UC "won the contract"?
LANS can't lose: if by the oddest chance I'm wrong and a few people do refuse to submit to testing, then they're out the door, and that's a few people less that will have to be RIF'ed in a few months.
Good on you, Brad. Shame on the rest of you, in advance.
As already intimated by at least one anonymous blogger, there is considerable risk to anyone who would question policy decisions despite the abundant scientific support and the known pernicious effects of polygraphs (and, as a physician-physicist, I would posit random drug-screening as well) on staff morale and equally important the fundamental mission of the Labs: apoliticized, unvarnished advice to decision-makers. Should staff members fail to follow Brad's lead, national security will suffer on the "micro" and "macro" scale. The former is reflected in the tendency of bureaucrats to confuse "doing something" with "doing something useful " to improve security within the labs themselves, thus diluting the limited resources available for security improvements (e.g. in cybersecurity) through far better means. One the larger measure, a false message is sent to the country: we can protect ourselves by utilizing discredited technologies that still have validity in the public mind from superficial popularization of the screening methodologies who, at the same time, are denied the benefits of scientific reviews and studies because it is much more difficulty to squeeze the conclusions of controlled research into a sound bite than it is to tell an anecdote.
As the Senior Scientist at Sandia (roughly equivalent in rank to a Laboratory Fellow at LANL) who took the point on polygraphs from the time they were first proposed by Bill Richardson and Heather Wilson (and others for their own personal political reasons) in 1999-2000, I was relatively protected for a while. But when speaking truth to power when reason and logic fail, all should know going into to such a struggle there are clear limits. While my management at Sandia -- Dori Ellis who operated at a "Section Leader" equivalent at SNL and C. Paul Robinson, the former president of Sandia hadn't the courage to fire mire, they certainly had at their behest a variety of strings to pull to make my life miserable, removing my control of highly successful research work and even going so far as to move my office right next to Ellis', for reasons obvious enough that no explanation is required.
But life --including scientific life -- doesn't end when one leaves the labs, as will be inevitable for some (perhaps many) if this correct protest begins to grow. One must maintain enough confidence to know that there are countless opportunities and much satisfaction to be had if one can look beyond the short-term consequences of forgoing the above-average remuneration, the prestige of working at LANL or SNL (though it is now much less grandiose than even 10 years ago), and associated comforts. But let me be clear: I would not advise anyone without such self-confidence to hazard the path of decrying the Emperor's improper wardrobe.
Should polygraph testing return under the guise of "random" selection -- with no parameters on type, scope, frequency, quality assurance, and independent review (along with approval of the LANL Human Studies Board) -- it is all but certain that disaster will follow. Most will suffer in silence, but careers will be ruined. Think it doesn't matter? I invite those who so doubt to read the unsolicited testimonials I received from Sandians who were subjected to polygraph testing by vapid, arbitrary thugs who were intoxicated with their power and for whom there was no independent oversight (as I recommended when the polygraph program began, but which was completely ignored even after direct requests to Sandia's senior management).
The testimonials are available at:
I also offer two published OpEd pieces that may help to guide (though I can not promise inspire) others to follow Brad's lead.
First, what I learned about the importance of the role of laboratory scientists in informing public policy debates at:
Second, the challenges we all face in bringing holding our political leaders accountable for decision-making that is highly destructive to individual careers. I realize this is much akin to the political lessons of early 18th century play "The Way of the World" (William Congreve), but I suspect it doesn't hurt to be reminded of our human frailties every once in the while so that we might someday learn to rise a bit above them.
Alan P. Zelicoff, MD
Former Senior Scientist, Center for National Security and Arms Control, Sandia National Lab
We have seen the increasing criminalization of non-criminal behaviors in the DOE workplace. A notable recent example is the linking of social drinking of legal alcohol with illegal drug use. The psychology community now lumps both activities as “substance abuse” and as equally bad. Note how the phrases “drugs and alcohol” and “clean and sober” are commonly run together in their conversations.
In the mind of the brokeback cowboys of HSR-2, they are equal, and a finding of either will jeopardize your clearance. See for example, “Back Door to Prohibition: The New War on Social Drinking” [http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=1360]
Along the same lines, an employee has no defense against the abuse of psychological authority by the anointed gatekeepers. See, for example, “Psychoanalysis as a Weapon” by Murray N. Rothbard [http://www.mises.org/story/2330]. Once the anointed have declared you “unreliable,” you will never get another security clearance.
Wasn’t it the Nazis who coined the phrase, “An honest man has nothing to fear?”
Staff member, Theoretical Division, T-13, Former Feynman Distinguished Fellow
Given the prevasive use of flushing and adulturating agents by just about everyone and their mum, random testing is the only sort that would make any practical or financial sense to the client.
Perhaps you'd find a policy of planned/regular testing involving hair samples easier to accept? That sort, although more expensive than urinalysis, is mostly adulturation-proof.
Should they be "conditioned" to resist the effects of torture and Sodium Pentothal also?
Polygraph tests are not included in this policy.
The lab and the management are in a tough position due to the repeated and well publicized issues. They have to show that they are dealing with the problem. The fact that the woman involved in the last incident had a meth lab in her mobile home is what has caused this.
Try to get a job anywhere else - they clearly state that a drug test is required and a condition of employment. We need to have the same policy at LANL.
Using illegal drugs is a felony if you have a clearance and do not report it. If you do report it, it will get your clearance pulled. It's no Catch-22. It is merely a condition of being granted the clearance. Use illegal drugs and lose your clearance. Anyone who uses illegal drugs with a clearance should be ferretted out and removed from the work force.
Illegal drug use shows extremely bad judgement and opens people to blackmail - not to mention any danger to themselves and coworkers for those with such extreme bad judgement that they arrive at work either still drunk or high. I don't want those people at the laboratory.
I work at LANL and I fully support the random drug testing policy. It is merely enforcing a legitimate condition of employment and posession of a security clearance.
I hate to break this to you, but if a LANL scientist is kidnapped by a foreign entity, you can pretty sure that they're going to give up every secret they have.
LANL employees, stop worrying. There are many labs in China that would be glad to have you. If you are made to feel like children or criminals by your masters, pack your bags, grab your passports, and head for Dalian.
If this madness continues, LANL will lose its best and brightest and be left with cowering boot-lickers.
That agreement does not simply end at initial access. It is a continuing process that involves reporting, responsible behavior, and following the guidelines. They government is fully within its right to check up on your status in a manner that is commesurate with the sensitivity of the information being protected.
While the polygraph may not be a scientific tool, has has demonstrated a tremendous ability to uncover previously undisclosed information that would have initially disqualified a candidate for access. It has also been instrumental in uncovering thousands and thousands of serious crimes and incidents of espionage. The information gatehred by poligraphers is not entirely based on scientific measurements, as we all know. Irregarless, it does provide information.
IF you are not taking drugs, are not a criminal, or not a spy, you will have nothing to worry about. Otherwise, feel free to exercise the scietific process somewhere else besides one of our national labs where critical nuclear weapon design information is developed.
The citizens and taxpayers of this coutry demand that you LANS employees be nothing but fully qualified AND fully vetted and trustworthy. To refuse a drug test and polygraph, for this particular job, is simply un-American.
First of all about the drug testing would have done nothing to
prevent the what happened with the
woman. She did not use drugs. However do you really think driving off all the good people will be worth it? Why not just hire people who are good and you can trust in the first place? Oh,
yeah, I forgot we are in New Mexico. Ok move the lab to someplance else in the United States.
Scientists tend to be high strung, anxious, and excitable. Good scientists seem to be even more so. It seems like the already high false positive rates that have been destroying good careers at intelligence agencies for years will be even higher at LANL. What if horror of horrors, our government science was of the same low quality as our intelligence agencies. Why is the government copying the policies of the incompetent agencies instead of the successful ones?
Especially if you've got nothing to hide you should be the first to sign. Otherwise the best of your colleagues will be the first to go and the next 20 years will be marked by worse science, duller lunch conversations, and conferences without sparkle. So put your career at some little risk now or make rest of your career miserable.
Second, If Holian doesn't like it that a clearly-stated condition of employment and for holding a clearance is actually being tested, then he is free to look elsewhere for a job.
I'm sick of his kind of attitude here.
This is not about polygraph testing. Polygraphs are not included in the random drug testing proposal.
What this is about is verifying something that is plainly stated as a condition of employment and for having a clearance.
Brad Holian is only propagating the image of the coddled LANL scientist who thinks the rules do not or should not apply to them. This kind of attitude is what got the lab contract bid in the first place.
Mr. Holian isn't protesting drug testing anywhere else. Why? If it is offensive to him that he should be tested, why isn't it offensive to him that others have to do the same thing?
We don't need his kind or his attitude here. Let me be the first to invite Mr. Holian to find another job elsewhere.
There are drug abusers in your workplace and they are endangering your safety and security. That is not an item for discussion. It is now an established fact.
Feel free to hand over your badge in protest. You are all replaceable.
It would be addressed in a separate policy statement.
Second, this has nothing to do with 'attitude'.
Contrary to the Macarthy-Era opinion being expressed by a few (or possibly one), there is nothing MORE American than standing up for what is actually right, at personal risk, to oppose overzealous and unreasoned actions by men in grey suits chanting the current mantra of 'National Security' to try to excuse whatever illegal, and TRULY un-american actions they wish, without regard to reason, ethics, or law.
When an 'authority' is wrong, it is appropriate to oppose that authority. To fail to do so is what would be un-american. Jingoism is really just fascism with window-dressing, and you may check yours at the door.
While, no, it is not illegal, and while it may still be a common practice for security clearances, polygraph testing is completely without merit, having no standing within the legal system specifically because it has been demonstrated repeatedly that it has no scientific validity.
And, to disagree with the forensic toxicologist, neither is random drug testing a reasonable nor appropriate practice. If there is an instance of legitimate probable cause, then get a warrant, and do a proper hair test, which as pointed out is difficult, if not impossible to fake. Otherwise, stop using random testing to harass those doing nothing wrong. It is random testing which is a waste of time and money, not using the more expensive test, as long as it is under the appropriate circumstances.
Instituting these deeply flawed practices accomplishes nothing other than providing window dressing for talking heads to be able to point to something to say they've done something. Like what passes for 'airport security', it's nothing more than hand-waving intended to appease those who don't know any better.
This "culture of fear" has been pervasive ever since the start of the cold war, and has gained more influence again with 9/11.
Security of information when dealing with humans (beyond common security measures) is fundamentally about four things:
1) _earning_ and keeping loyalty by genuinely being concerned about and acting to maintain the well being of your staff.
2) providing an internal open communication path to allow problem detection, communication and correction.
3) clear, fair and transparent processes and rules for problem resolution.
4) careful implementation of steps 1,2 and 3 to earn and keep the trust and respect of your staff / team.
These are coincidentally also the fundamental reasons why Democracies have always won out in the long run over dictators and tyrants.
A good leader and his or her team (note not "manager") knows his or her fellow team members well enough and has their trust so that when problems arise they are identified
if not by the leader then by the team members who trust the leadership and problem resolution process enough to communicate about the problem early enough to be able to resolve it.
These are difficult conditions to create because they also require the leader to trust his team and be part of it.
A culture of fear and oppression will never be as successful as one of honest friendship and trust.
That being said: the culture of any organization always starts at the top. When leader of an organization (in this case the government) is reactive and afraid, his actions towards his subordinates determine the culture of the organization.
When it comes to defense-related work, I, as a clearance-holding veteran, insist that any person performing defense-related work and requiring a clearance for such work be subjected to the SAME conditions of defense employment that many clearance-holding veterans have been subjected to for decades -- namely the polygraph (in some cases), background investigation, and urinalysis.
From a national security point-of-view, why do these scientists believe that they're somehow different and hence exempt from the requirements placed upon every service member? As a taxpayer and citizens of the US, I find that rather offensive and indicative of a sort of "elitist" mentality.
"Suck It Up", as the saying goes, and deal with it.
If, on the other hand, we wish to preserve and defend the nation that was originally envisioned--democratic in republican form, with church and state firmly separated, the nation of Jefferson and Lincoln--then two important principles naturally emerge, which we should stoutly fight to protect: The right to privacy and the presumption of innocence. It is upon these two foundations that I proposed the two letters about polygraphs and the potential threat to impose random drug tests without probable cause. Are scientists to be treated with the dignity they deserve as well-educated adults that serve our nation, or are we to be treated as adolescents? If scientists can be treated with respect and with the rights inherent in the U.S. Constitution, then surely so can secretaries who work for them. And technicians. And even managers. And the list goes on and on--it can't stop--the right to privacy and the presumption of innocence can't be applied just to one race and not others, to one religion and not others (including those with no religion), to males, but not to females, to one sexual orientation and not others, to people holding one set of political beliefs and not to others (apart from, of course, those who advocate violent overthrow of these freedoms).
No one yet has shown objectively that either polygraphs or drug tests do anything useful (over and above the annoying background clearances many of us have already had to endure), except to relieve lazy managers of their accountability. If a manager were to observe abnormal behavior or drug-induced incapacity in any worker--and here, I am not referring to outspokenness or candid critical opinions voiced by any worker (which "drug," precisely, would cause that?)--then they should deal with actually observed problems, rather than embarking upon "fishing expeditions" that are intrusive to personal privacy of the innocent and the use of which has not yet managed to discover one instance of actual espionage.
What danger is there in treating workers like adults? Why use police-state methods of intimidation as "recruiting" devices? Those might well work for a "macho," but at best pseudoscientific, institution like CIA. But they will not help national security that relies heavily upon a healthy working environment for scientific research at national laboratories like Los Alamos.
So now, this comes down to a challenge to LANS and a question specifically to Director Anastasio: Are your "golden words" about "the importance of science" at Los Alamos just public relations? Or are they part of a genuine compact with the Lab's scientists you wish, as the new Director, to restore, after the last several years' worth of earlier mismanagement at LANL?
-Brad Lee Holian
Are you serious? Do really think you can demand of the scientist that they are resistant to torture/threats? Sounds insane to me.
to 1/02/2007 7:15 AM
That other people have it worse then you doesnt mean you shouldnt improve/maintain your own situation. Besides, by standing up against this policy it might prevent other organisations from trying it aswel.
1/02/2007 7:48 AM
You think that the employer should have the freedom to demand these things. You forget that the employer is in a position of power, since there is only a limited number of places to work. Also I dont think the employer has the right to demand all kinds of things.
I my view a director/president/CEO doesnt fully own his organisation/position of power, his job is to serve the people while keeping working conditions/pay reasonable. And yes, i do think this is true regardless of the boss has started the organisation himself. How this person tries to make it work is his perocative.
Yes, I do think a CEO has a right to demand those things. And I think Americans have a right to demand it of the workers in their nuclear laboratories and facilities.
Do you want drug-using airline pilots? What about nuclear power plant workers? Railroad engineers? Or should any person in a position requiring safety and security be free to use whatever they want in spite of previously agreeing that they would not?
Illegal drug use is, to be totally redundant, illegal. It is a violation of the conditions of work and the requirements for a security clearance.
Holian agreed to be drug free and now he objects to the verification? Since he challenges scientists to object to testing, why shouldn't we challenge him to actual experimental results?
It will be very interesting to see how many test positive in spite of a 30 day warning that testing is about to begin. It would have been even more interesting to see how many tested positive had testing begun the day of the announcement.
Los Alamos has had too many incidents because people thought the rules didn't apply to them. It's been said before - the incidents that LANL has suffered are the reason the contract was bid and now it's why there will be drug testing. The incidents at the lab and the attitudes of a select few have brought damage, shame, uncertainty, and lots and lots of angst to the rest of us.
It's time people like Holian found out the rules do apply. People like Holian jeapardize the jobs of the rest of us and the future of the laboratory as a whole. If he wants to fight a noble cause against drug testing, let him do it somewhere where the consequences are not on the scale of divulged nuclear secrets, accidents that injure or kill coworkers, or ultimately provoking the government to lock the doors on what so many don't realize is one of this Nation's most valuable assets.
Personally, I want to see this lab mend - and it won't mend as long as we have security incidents where meth labs are found in an employee's home. That is why there will now be drug testing.
If Holian doesn't like it, and his credentials are good enough, let him find employment elsewhere.
Holian doesn't like it, and his credentials are good enough. The old McCarthyite slogan leaps to mind: "Why doesn't Holian just go back to Russia where he came from, if he doesn't like it here?"
I've been at Los Alamos for 34 years, and I've never (to my knowledge) been drug-tested. I challenge anyone to come forth, sign his or her name to an affidavit, and testify to the "fact" that I have ever been at work inebriated or high on drugs. But ... I COULD be tested and found to be either a "null" or a "false positive." That could happen to YOU, Mr./Ms. Anonymous! THEN what? I don't even want to put my life (my career, which is not yet over) in such peril. And without probable cause, why should anyone in this country be allowed to put me in such a spot?
Now, let's back off and take a breath here. Objectively, what secrets have been lost at LANL, and how many lives have been lost due to verifiable instances of drug abuse? You see, this whole line smells very much like the one we heard from the same bunch of sharks who've managed to put Los Alamos in jeopardy for the last dozen years, and even shut it down completely 2-1/2 years ago, with no good cause to do so. Bottom line: Show me the numbers.
Ah, but why do I even waste time with your kind, Mr./Ms. Anonymous? You can't show me the numbers; you can only show me your fears, your intolerance, and your disrespect for scientists. You'll do just fine under a future home-grown Stalin.
"Dominate - Intimidate - Control"
I do not disrespect the scientists at the laboratory. I am one. And I have no reason to suspect that you are yourself a drug user. I don't know you by any other way than through this quest of yours to block drug testing.
However, what I do know is the person involved in this last incident reportedly had a meth lab in her mobile home. I do not know if she is/was a drug user herself. However, it is obvious she made some extremely bad choices and one of them involved drugs.
What would you suggest Mr. Anastasio do to show Congress that LANS is doing something to address these issues we have had? Go in front of them and just say: "No sir, we decided not to do anything but trust the people, some of whom have proven they cannot be trusted, to just do what they said they would do - what they promised they would do. We don't want to offend anyone."
Think that would fly when there are those in Congress who want to literally shut the lab down?
What would you do Brad? What should LANS do? Sit on their hands because there is a vocal minority who thinks they are above all supsicion or verification because it is below their dignity? Something has to be done and we all need to rise to this issue and fix it. Now.
As to what would happen were I to be hit with a false positive - the process would involve a backup sample and definitive testing. And you better believe that LANS better get the answer right and be able to back it up in court. Destroying a career over a positive - false or true - is guaranteed to land them in court. Their house better be in order before they do that to anyone.
I do not in any way fear the process. I welcome it.
So I ask you again - what should LANS do to show that they are trying to prevent another of these incidents? Go and tell Congress we are above all suspicion in spite of incidents that would indicate we can't follow basic safety and security rules? Drug testing is a step in the right direction.
I value my job and I value the work we do. This Laboratory is a National asset and is valuable to the future of this country. I want to do everything necessary to protect it and fix the image that some people have propagated in the media.
I am clean and I don't mind being tested. This isn't about having nothing to hide - it's about ferreting out those that do. Get on board or hit the road.
Are scientists showing up at work drunk or stoned, and is the abuse of any illegal drugs affecting in any adverse way the work that is being done at LANL?
If the answer is yes, well, obviously the problem would be evident enough for someone(well, several official someones) to do something about.
And if the answer (which I suspect it is) is no, then why bother? No one can control what someone else does off the clock, and for those of you who bring up the topic of blackmail and the like, how's this: Is it not possible to blackmail someone with something else? And why not get someone drunk, high, and blackmail them with that? I'd also like to bring up the topic of F.D.R. and Winston Churchill (both of whom had vices, including but not limited to heavy drinking and opium usage- you can guess who did what), and of Hitler (who was a strict vegetarian who didn't smoke Or drink). What about them?
All of the arguments for polygraph and drug testing seem to be quite preposterous.
Also, am I the only one that finds it hilarious that precious few seem willing to put their names at the ends of their posts? Esp. Anonymous @ 8:40 today, who seems quite eager to get rid of Mr. Brad. Didn't anyone ever learn in third grade that an unsigned letter was an insult to the writer's integrity? If you MUST bring a baseless detraction to the discussion, at least have the courage to tell people who you are. Even I know that.
Warren Singh, age 17
For one, the random drug testing is a no-brainer. If you are working in a position that requires a security clearance, or working with potentially dangerous materials, and you are using drugs without a prescription, THEN YOU HAVE NO BRAIN.
The average person's mouth waggles enough when they're stone-cold sober. The average person will take the easiest route to a "speedy and efficent" end when they're stone-cold sober. More violations and CMS incidents occur because someone got lazy, complacent or just plain DUMB.
Please, don't go crying about your so-called "rights" to make yourself any dumber than you already may or may not be. Pee in the cup. I'll be next in line, thank you very much.
As for polygraph tests, every single one of you has completely and totally MISSED THE POINT OF THE POLYGRAPH.
I've been through one. A piece of keying material just went "poof" on my watch and everyone who'd been on that watch were *ASKED* if they wanted to take one. We all agreed. Everyone had the exact same story, the exact same results. It was determined that the material had been inadvertantly destroyed, and everyone was happy.
During the polygraph, I noticed a few things.
1. The interviewer is chosen for each interviewee. As you're sitting in the waiting room, there's a camera watching you. You are sized up, mannerisms judged and overall demeanor assessed. Who are you likely to respond to? Beautiful woman? Butch guy? Motherly woman? Who are you likely to be nervous around? Massive jock in a suit & tie? 6'2" snow queen? Your interviewer is tailored to you.
2. The polygraph is a farce. It's meant to make you nervous, and to see just how nervous they can make you. If you have nothing to hide, then you're not going to be terribly intimidated with it. I wasn't? In fact, I even looked up info on the internet on how to mess with it. Pucker your anus like you're holding back the mother of all Mexican party nights, and the needle goes crazy. Tailor the response to suit your needs. Blah.
3. They aren't watching the polygraph. There's either a camera in the room, or a 1-way mirror. And on the other side of that is a team of people who are exceptionally good at reading body language. Namely YOURS.
4. The interviewer will use different styles of body language. Mine was a massive jock type in a polo shirt and khakis, HUGE gold watch and Italian shoes. Very masculine and a little imposing. After the polygraph, we talked about what happened and went over the questions and responses.
I sat comfortably, with my arms on my belly or on my knees. I was safe, I knew what was going on, and I had nothing to hide. Completely open and honest.
Every once in a while, usually while asking a sensitive question, he would lean forward and get close, inside my "comfort zone". I wasn't uncomfortable, so I didn't cross my legs or my arms. Heck, I even leaned in towards him so I could read what he was writing.
No fear, no worries, "ain't skeered".
I actually thought *I* was playing *him*! He would get close, I'd meet him half-way. He'd back up a bit, and I'd let him retreat. I thought it was kinda funny, since I knew the rules and the game.
Or so I thought.
When it was over, we shook hands, and all was well. As I left the room, I saw a group of five people, all standing around and chatting. One of them looked at me and said "Take care!" with a bit too much familiarity and too much "knowledge". Like they knew me well and had me figured out.
That's when the lightbulb went on and it all clicked.
That group had been behind the 1-way mirror, watching me. Listening to me. Watching my arms, my legs, my breathing, my eyes, my face.
And I knew: you can hide whatever you want from the polygraph, as it's a total fake and they know it. They figured that out decades ago, but they kept it as a valuable part of an integrated process of information collection. So it's just a tool.
A tool that sets you up for the REAL test, and it's a living, breathing person that decides your fate, not a box full of wires.
And you *can't* hide from them.
-John A Antilety
IT2(SW) USN (honorably discharged)
Did you know 25% of Americans believe Christ will return in 2007? Do you feel safer knowing that up to 25% of people working at LANL might beleive the same thing? Maybe we should expand the tests to include some other things besided drugs.
We are not all a bunch of sissies and prima donnas - we will gladly partcipate in random drug tests if they are in the interest of security. At the same time, let's implement adultery tests - we can be blackmailed for that also; let's implement the prohibition of the primary legal drug - alcohol. How many meetings have you attended with a bunch of red faced, high cologne, minty breath, haggard, bloated individuals - gee, all those secrets must be leaving in a state of alcoholic haze; let's implement a test for endorphin levels for the non-smoking, non-drinking, non-toking, faithful-to-their spouse individuals who exercise excessively every day - gee, how can we trust someone who looks and acts that perfect.
People are missing the point - the random drug tests are about intimidation and fear when there is no direct correlation between drug testing and keeping national secrets safe. It is about throwing a carrot to DOE so that LANS can keep all of their fee - everything is about the fee - the new LANS motto is "Work for the Fee (get my bonus)" - read "not OUR bonus"
Completed your IPO lately? Ours is teeming with references to prime contract metrics.
What people should be worried about is how this kid was able to achieve this breach. Would a random drug test really prevented stupidity? Read my sign
It is generally agreed that there are four rationales for drug testing: safety, productivity, decreasing drug use and legislative or regulatory requirements. Courts have generally upheld employer-mandated drug testing based on safety -- e.g. in the transportation industry (particularly airline and railroad employees), the military (historically this began after a serious accident on in the USS Nimitz in the 1980s in which fully half of the individuals injured had evidence of marijuana use in urine screening) and also in the nuclear power industry. Given more than 25 years of “routine” drug screening in both government/public and private industry, one would expect some assessment of the utility of the approach for the first three (i.e. substantive as opposed to regulatory) putative purposes. Surprisingly, there is little in the literature to substantiate the rationales.
Problems from technical factors and specific methodologies (such as urine vs. hair analysis) aside (and they are not insignificant, including both the inherent inability to detect all drugs of potential abuse – resulting in one type of “false negative” and false positives from ambiguities in both chromatographic and antibody-based technologies), the possible downsides of random drug screening have long been recognized (and, without question, realized in certain circumstances). These include, inter alia, decrease in employee morale, expense, and protracted legal confrontations over results. None of this is to say that drug testing has no role in the workpalce. But, the questions remain: where and when should it be done?
Since there will never be a published study of random drug testing at the national labs (presumably on the basis of document classification), one must look elsewhere for demonstrations of efficacy. There are certainly industries where errors, safety concerns, and ethical consideration are every bit as significant as at the national labs. Perhaps premier among them is in health-care where the accidental act of one individual under the influence of an intoxicating substance can – and does – result in death or harm to patients. There is no ambiguity here, and numerous court cases (and I have severed as an expert witness in some) point to both the scale and impact of the problem. Whether the death of a patient (or several patients) can be equated to, say, the loss of classified information or an industral accident resulting in harm but not death is, of course, a matter of the utility analysis of the individual reader.
Unfortunately, the track record in the health care industry leaves much to be desired. In general, health care institutions (hospitals, HMOs, private physicians’ offices, nursing homes and even hospice and elder care) subject prospective employees to drug screening. Since the individual is not yet an employee – and pre-employment screening is a condition of consideration of an offer of employment, there is almost never any legal wrangling in this situation. Pre-employment evidence of the presence of obvious drugs of abuse with few or no medical indications (cocaine, methamphetamines, MDMA, and barbiturates) have been reported in as many as 25% of applicants. The trend has been downward in recent years, perhaps for many reasons: awareness on the part of prospective employees that they will be screened (and hence can be “clean” for the days or weeks leading up to testing), promulgation of knowledge of techniques for eliminating some drugs rapidly via the use of diuretics (which have widely varying efficacy for this purpose), and other less well-known maneuvers to obscure forensic evidence of drug abuse. Of course, many potential drugs of abuse (narcotics, marijuana, and amphetamine relatives do indeed have legitimate medical indications. In general, provision of a prescription is sufficient reason for employers to ignore (or dismiss) a “positive drug screen”.
Once employed, the nurse, physician, or mid-level provider (PA, Nurse Practitioner) may or may not be “randomly” tested; may know which drugs are being tested for; may be able to produce a prescription for a given drug (legitimate or not), or may be aware of other medications that can (with some chance of failure) “mask” the presence of other drugs. Hence, the efficacy of random drug screening in medical settings is poor; rarely does a week go by when headlines summarize the illicit behavior or bad judgment of some addicted medical professional.
I believe that LANL scientists (and well-trained scientists in general) are at least as clever as physicians (who know surprising little science and have even less experience searching the scientific literature) in gaming the “random” screening approach. The result may be a false sense of security among managers and government oversight committees for a finding of “no illicit drugs in random screening of LANL employees” may be an empty reassurance.
Regarding morale, physicians in particular take great umbrage at being forced to take drug tests. This is not to say that they shouldn’t. The point is that they won’t (or do so under circumstances they control). False negative rates almost certainly increase.
Where does this leave us? In the medical profession, drug testing for bona fide cause is accepted, effective, and even accepted by the impaired physician or nurse. “Cause” involves judgment, which in my view is precisely as it should be. A colleague, a supervisor, or even friend who notices unusual behavior such as absenteeism (very rare in medical practices), long work hours without any sleep (sometimes held as a virtue in medicine when it is almost always destructive and maladaptive) or problems with relationships and/or unusual outbursts are good “pre-test” probability indicators (in the Bayesian sense). No less should be expected from LANL management, though a lack of understanding of the diagnostic utility (e.g. positive and negative predictive values) or fear of litigation may discourage management from carrying out their chosen – though admittedly difficult – roles.
The literature offers very little additional insights or guidance. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has published a “Public Policy Statement on Drug Testing in Workplace Settings” in 2003, but it offers little more than what common (Bayesian) sense would dictate. I am aware of nothing more recent, but may be wrong on this score.
In the end, drug screening in the workplace – any workplace including national laboratories, law enforcement, transportation, medical practice, and critical infrastructure -- is problematic but manageable. However, it requires a management structure that is knowledgeable and willing to take occasional risks. Testing “for cause” is well validated in the medical literature and upheld by the courts. Random screening in “high consequence” environments – another judgment to be sure – is somewhat more tenuous. Routine, universal drug testing is near certain to fail catastrophically undermining the very national security it is purported to protect. The latter does not mean that a policy adopted by management will not find some support in the courts. It also does not mean that it should be re-examined, and protested if reason and logic fail as is so often the case at the Labs (at least in my 15 year experience).
References are available on request. Please write to me privately as I believe copyright laws prohibit my posting of full text articles without explicit permission from the publisher, and I do not want to burden this site with footnotes.
Alan Zelicoff, MD
Former Senior Scientist, Sandia National Laboratories
"As to what would happen were I to be hit with a false positive - the process would involve a backup sample and definitive testing. And you better believe that LANS better get the answer right and be able to back it up in court. Destroying a career over a positive - false or true - is guaranteed to land them in court. Their house better be in order before they do that to anyone." (Post 1/02/2007 4:57 PM)
Actually, you have no real recourse if you are hit with a "false positive". Remember that after June 1st, LANS can fire you for ANY reason, as you'll be "at will". Hiring an expensive lawyer to fight the results will buy you nothing. And losing your job due to a "false positive" reading will likely destroy your scientific career for the rest of your life. The stakes are very high on this one. Higher than even a "failed" polygraph test.
It's one thing to be turned down for a job because of a "false positive" preliminary drug test. No one would ever have to know of it. It's quite another to be fired from your job because of a "false positive" drug test. Any future employer would probably have ready access as to why you got fired from your previous job.
A judicious modification I would recommend to this policy is that a second sample be allowed, say one week after the first. If you are, indeed, a drug user, most of the illegal drugs may still be there. The current policy of using a "split sample" for double testing may not do much to help reduce the problem of "false positive" results.
Also, I would recommend that people go and read the new policy. If you are unfortunate enough to be hit with a "false positive" result, the consequences will be very swift. You'll likely be fired from your job within days. That would be particularly devastating for people who don't use illegal drugs and are unfairly targeted by a "false positive" reading (which, from Alan's comments, seems to be a frequent occurance).
Citizens can always sense this. It's like a virus that quickly spreads among a population. The Greeks experienced it. The Romans felt it, too. And now, like all other great societies, moral corruption had eaten through to the core of the American psyche. The public had a growing sense of it. And in this type of milieu, it was only natural for the majority of the the citizens to attempt one last chance to "get what's due me" before the growing dry rot brought down everything.
Captains of industry pilfered unbelievable treasures from their corporate shareholders and employees. The cult of celebrity trumped artistry. Belief trumped science. It was the best of times for a chosen few, but the worst of times for many. Easy riches were there for the taking if you could only lower your standards. And for most people, they could, as time was clearly running out.
-- "History of America", Pliny the Elder, 2050 --
One more thing to note, is that the current urinalysis is only looking for THC, because the other common drugs metabolize within 24 hours or less, leaving little to nothing for the tests to find. If you wish to test for other drugs, use other methods. If testing for THC, urinalysis is the way to go.
Random Slashdot.org reader.
I grant you that random polygraphs are just plain dumb, since I am pretty sure your lives are an open book to the federal authorities doing your continuous and ongoing background checks.
Check it out for yourself at
-Pat, the Dog
Energy Dept Will Significantly Reduce Polygraph Testing
After years of public controversy, the Department of Energy has adopted a new polygraph testing policy that it said "will significantly reduce the number of individuals who will undergo a polygraph examination."
In particular, "DOE has decided to alter the role of polygraph testing as a required element of the counterintelligence evaluation program by eliminating such testing for general screening of applicants for employment and incumbent employees without specific cause," according to a notice published in the Federal Register.
The use of the polygraph for "general screening" of employees has been its most commonly criticized application.
DOE rejected arguments that polygraph testing should be eliminated entirely, indicating that such a position "cannot be reconciled" with Congressional direction to DOE to develop a new polygraph policy.
The new policy will still "require a counterintelligence [polygraph] evaluation for applicants for certain high-risk positions and every five years for incumbents of those positions," the DOE notice said.
See "Counterintelligence Evaluation Regulations," Federal Register, September 29.
I discussed "Polygraph Testing and the DOE National Laboratories" in a 3 November 2000 essay in Science Magazine.
On October 2, a federal court rejected (pdf) a legal challenge to polygraph testing that was filed by six applicants for jobs at the FBI and the Secret Service who were denied employment after they failed a polygraph test, as noted on the web site antipolygraph.org.
[Posted by Steven Aftergood on October 3, 2006 11:51 AM, Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy]
When drug testing first reared its ugly head in the 80's I thought at first that Americans would never stand for such an immoral procedure. After all, if the government owns your bodily fluids then what do you have left?
While few in the nation seem to feel any indignation, I vowed at the time that I would not allow my moral stance to be comprimised by cooperating.
Over the years I have been able to maintain my principles by choosing where I worked and who I worked for. I have only had to turn down one job that requested testing and went to work for another contractor. It was a consideration when I came to LANL over 20 years ago. One of the posters on this thread stated that drug testing was a condition for employment. Excuse me, but it wasn't when I signed up.
As I am too old to find another job it looks like I'm going to have to abandon my principles and perform a morally reprehensible act, like a Jew sitting down to a dinner of pork.
The day that I piss in the cup I will know that I am nothing more than a whore for science.
You misread what I wrote. I never said drug testing was a condition of employment or a clearance. I said being drug-free was. All that is being added is the verification of that claim on the part of LANL employees.
Also, the government/LANS still lay no claim to your bodily fluids. You aren't being forced to work here. Just leave if you don't like it. Please.
It just broke that Linton Brooks has had to resign over this mess. LANS is being held accountable and has to show that they are not only correcting what led to this event, but also being proactive to prevent future events.
What do you and Holian want them to do? The fact is that LANS is not our ultimate employer - the US government is. They want change and they want it now.
You, Holian, and God knows how many others are only making the lab look worse than it already does. Like it or not, there will be drug testing. You guys just give the press, the public, and certain Senators a convenient stereotype of the coddled/babied LANL scientist who whines all the time about providing actual experimental evidence that you aren't doing what you said you wouldn't do.
Should you be trusted? Take a look back at the events of the last few years and you tell me.
Don't you get it? Home Depot, McDonalds, Burger King, etc all have their employees pee in a cup and they aren't doing dangerous experiments or handling nuclear secrets.
So what if you think you are above suspicion? What about Jessica Quintana? Should she have been above suspicion too?
This isn't about you (I assume). This is about anyone that uses drugs at LANL. They need to be found and removed.
We need a new attitude here too. Rules *DO* apply. They apply to you, Holian, me, and everyone else.
What you and Holian are doing is hurting the laboratory and endangering all the rest of our jobs and the laboratory itself. If you don't think you are endangering a valuable National resource, please leave because you obviously don't have a clue.
You do nothing to show Congress we are trying to fix things. Quite the contrary. You show them why we don't deserve to continue to have our programs funded - because we can't be trusted.
Take your noble battles somewhere else. Somewhere where you aren't screwing the rest of us who work here and the Nation as a whole.
We just wanna keep our safe, well-paying jobs.
We don't need Science.
We need ... f-f-f-f-Faith!
-Yeah, that's the ticket!
Actually, if it were up to me, I would fire Holian and anyone else that signs his demands to block drug testing.
The Lab has a bad image right now - deserved or not. We have people who look at the string of issues and think we are one big den of scientists that don't give a crap about rules or regulations, we steal from the government, etc.
It's a wrong impression, but it's one a lot of people hold.
And people like you, Holian, and the other anonymouses just keep that image alive.
If there had been no security, safety, or other incidents recently, I would possibly agree with you and ask why should we be drug tested.
But there have been events. Too many events. And now our competence and integrity are in question and our employer (the US government) wants proof that we aren't using drugs.
Why? Maybe because there was a meth lab in Jessica Quintana's home. Just possibly that might be the reason. You think?
Does that mean others at the lab are coming to work high or are using drugs? Nope. But the only way to know, or to get anyone actually using to stop is to start random testing.
LANS has to show Congress that they are adressing this issue and that they are working to prevent similar events in the future.
I have asked Holian before but he never replied - what would you people have LANS do to show they are addressing the issue and to prevent other drug-related events in the future?
Simple question. We already know that a drug-related event is possible. It just happened. So what is LANS supposed to do to keep anything similar from happening in the future?
Do you have any reasonable alternative actions for LANS to take to address the issue, and prevent future occurances? Anything?
Complaining that the drugs shouldn't be illegal doesn't count. They are. Complaining that their use shouldn't revoke a clearance or be cause for termination doesn't count either - it does/is. Complaining that it's below your dignity doesn't count. Complaining that the tests aren't 100% accurate doesn't count either.
What is your alternative proposal? Anything? Anything at all?
What is LANS supposed to do?
You do not work at LANL. If you
had you would not make the statements you did about the what has happened over the last five years. Get the real numbers.
Without people like Brad there would be no point in having LANL.
Why do you assume that because I am against drug testing that I use drugs?
Home Depot, McDonalds, Burger King, etc all have their employees pee in a cup
I try to not patronize businesses that have so much contempt for their employees that they require testing. By the way, it's getting easier. Corporate drug testing peaked in the 90's and has been declining ever since as more and more companies find that it is an unnecessary financial burden.
Speaking of which; 10,000 employees at about $100 per pop. Where is this Megabuck coming from? I thought that LANS was in a money crunch.
I seems to me that this is simply one more way of cutting the workforce. They've already said that they want to get rid of another 500 people. Some people are going to decide that they won't perform an immoral act, so they will be shown the door. There will be a few people actually turning up positive because they use drugs and they will be out. There will be quite a few who will turn up positive because they took some Sudafed or some Tylenol and they will be gone. And 1% of the 10,000 employees will fail because the test is not 100% effective. Add these up and LANS gets close to their 500 bodies on the street.
Criminal defense lawyers lobbied for this rule to help them to clear innocent clients: in this circumstance the high false positive rate (if memory serves it's been shown to be up to around 15 - 20%) is not at issue, rather the defense is relying on the other end of the spectrum: the 80-85% chance he's telling the truth when he answers "no" to the question, "did you do it?" is plenty when he only needs to create a reasonable doubt.
I am unalterably opposed to both polygraph testing and random drug testing in the workplace. This is a comfortable position for me to take because I am retired from LANL and no longer in a position to commit employment hiri-kiri.
But let's be practical: I suggest you submit (noisily and under protest) for now and work through the political process to elect politicians with a commitment to civil liberties who will undo these absurd impositions on our rights. Join the ACLU.
Please read the top post (1/05/2007), an open letter to Director Anastasio from Brad Holian. If that doesn't answer your questions ... you're ... well ... hopeless. Get a new mantra, baby.
--Pat, the Dog
Nobody posting against the proposed random drug testing has addressed what LANS is supposed to do to show they are addressing the issue of drugs in the LANL workplace.
You all love to point out how it's below your dignity, post that the drugs shouldn't be illegal, and talk about how much it will cost LANS with an already tight budget. But NOBODY has addressed how LANS is to improve Congress' confidence in the LANL work force. Not one of you.
The fact is that this issue must be addressed to Congress' satisfaction. Whining and protesting is doing nothing to show them we want to improve things at the Lab. What is does show is a bunch of whiney workers who do nothing but complain in the face of repeated issues at the Lab.
And to the person who claims I don't work at the Lab, I do. The salad bar at Ottowi is on the left as you walk in. The caesar salad bench on the right and the hot line further down. The yogurt smoothie place is boarded up and a grill fence locked over the counter area. There is a LANB bank machine in the foyer and a bulletin board past the bench seat where people post all sorts of odds and ends for sale. I am not going to post my name or Z number.
But what would all you people have LANS do? Not one of you brilliant people has said what the solution is. The fact is that the last incident involved drugs. So now we get drug tested. Complain all you want but it is going to happen. All you are doing is making us look like spoiled children.
I do not think congress wants people at LANL who do nothing but hide and let the place fail. A person like Brad is far far more valuable to LANL than someone like you. You know what happens to people who never stand up for doing the right thing, who never speak up or "whine" as you keep saying, who will try to save their skin at all costs by keeping silent? History has not looked favorably on such people. Such people are usually lazy, incompetent and unstrustworthy. Anyone who knows Brad will tell you that he is an outstanding scientist, honest, principled, patriotic, and courageous. In realty the people of the United States want people like Brad at LANL. Bad magnement will not fix problems at LANL and neither will just hiding. Poster 12:11 ultimetly it is you who are hurting LANL by not standing up for right thing when you know it is the right thing.
By the way it has been stated over and over again how to fix the problems at LANL.
Get rid of bad managment at LANL, NNSA and DOE.