Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

National security is paramount

I was disappointed to read your editorial 'Bliley bats .500,' about legislation to prevent the threat to national security that would result from Internet publication of chemical worst-case scenario information collected by the Environmental Protection Agency [GCN, Aug. 23, Page 24]. The editorial contained several inaccuracies and neglected to mention the widespread support for this bipartisan measure, which President Clinton signed into law Aug. 5.

First, data on chemical spills is available on EPA's Web site. For example, the site contains the five-year accident history for each regulated facility, a list of the regulated chemicals used at each facility and the amounts of regulated chemicals stored on-site. Because of national security concerns, the new law was narrowly tailored to restrict Internet publication of only the worst-case scenario portion of the lengthy risk management plans filed with EPA.

Most people who know this issue agree that it is a monumentally bad idea to provide a target list to terrorists that details where they could cause the most destruction and casualties. But all other portions of the risk management plans are available to the public in electronic format. The worst-case scenario information will be available to the public in a format developed by the administration over the next 12 months.

Second, the editorial made no mention of the overwhelming bipartisan support for this legislation. Within the administration, the legislation was supported by EPA, the Justice Department, the FBI and President Clinton. Moreover, groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Volunteer Fire Council and the National Association of Fire Chiefs also supported the legislation.

Finally, the legislation was the product of bipartisan negotiations. It passed both the House and Senate by unanimous consent, without any member objecting. If the assertions contained in the editorial had any basis in fact, surely at least one member of Congress would have voted against this bill. The unanimous support for the legislation is proof that Congress achieved a reasonable compromise.

I stand second to no member of Congress in supporting the public's electronic access to government data. There are, however, occasions when the government must tailor its information distribution system to achieve both the goals of right-to-know and protecting national security. These occasions call for narrowly tailored solutions such as the House Commerce Committee's worst-case scenario legislation.

Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.)

Chairman, House Commerce Committee


On the wrong software page?

Regarding 'At the Naval Academy, a Dell PC's the BMOC' [GCN, Aug. 30, Page 1]: What are they doing? Last time I checked, the Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century project specified Microsoft Windows NT with Office 97 as standard. Now your article reports that the plebes got Windows 98 Second Edition and Corel WordPerfect 2000.

Would someone explain this to me? We already have Navy officers who are not computer-savvy. In 2003, when these new officers join the fleet, what software are they going to be using? Does someone know something I don't?

I would think that the Naval Academy would use the same setup as the rest of the Navy. Who knows, come 2003 the Navy may switch to WordPerfect. Then these folks will know what they are doing.

David A. Bailey

San Diego

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