The UNM Greens attempted to get information on classified research at UNM through FOIA back in 2002. Here was the response:
Dec. 20, 2002 (Via e-mail and U.S. Mail)
The College Greens
Student Services Center, room 280
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
Dear College Greens:
Pursuant to the terms of the Inspection of Public Records Act, this responds to your public records request of December 4, 2002:
The public records request referenced a November 20, 2002 Albuquerque Journal article quoting UNM Director of Industrial Security Greg Hallstrom as stating that UNM must have a “facility clearance” because about 100 of its employees work in classified research projects under contract with federal facilities, and must have security clearances.
You requested the following public records:
“A list of the 100 professors mentioned in the article who do classified research, what their level of clearance is, what is the title of the contracts they are doing for the military, a summary of each project they are doing, and how much money the contracts are worth. Also, we would like a list of all classified contracts and faculty who have worked in this manner, including the duration of these contracts.”
The number of researchers and contracts involved turns out to be 53, rather than the approximately 100 initially estimated.
These individuals have security clearances for a variety of reasons. UNM is not currently conducting any classified research on campus. But UNM employees must have clearances for university-related work in the following situations: when the employee may have access to classified materials off campus, when the employee will be asked to share the results of
nonclassified research at a meeting in which classified information will be revealed, when the employee is involved in discussing possible future contracts that might involve classified information, or when the employee will be conducting nonclassified research at a classified facility.
Additionally, UNM has numerous Intergovernmental Personnel Act “employee loan” agreements, in which university employees are assigned for a period of time to work with a government agency. For 18 of these agreements, a security clearance is required. The work occurs off-campus. UNM does not control the work, does not know the reason for the security clearance, and usually does not know what is being worked on.
The New Mexico courts have fashioned a “rule of reason” that protects otherwise public records when there is a countervailing public policy against disclosure. UNM believes that it would be in violation of public policy to provide the list of individuals who do classified research and their clearance levels. On March 22, 2002, the Defense Security Service issued an Advisory to persons with security clearances. That Advisory stated that “It is a poor security practice for cleared personnel to refer to their clearances in any settings that are not secure. Persons who identify their clearance status in public or non-secure forums risk making themselves targets of foreign interests.” In light of this, we believe that releasing the names and clearance levels of UNM employees with clearances would create safety and security risks for those individuals. The problem would be exacerbated by releasing the list of the entire set of UNM employees with security clearances, as this could create an even more attractive target for hostile foreign interests, especially given that these individuals collectively constitute a major research and technical human resources asset for the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base, and therefore for the nation.
Additionally, it is a condition of UNM’s facility clearance that we cannot publicly disclose even unclassified information pertaining to a classified contract without prior review and clearance by the agency involved. Because our employees with clearances are working with multiple agencies, no one agency could authorize release of the requested list. While certain information about classified contracts is exempt from this restriction, that information does not include names of researchers nor security clearance levels.
Providing a list of titles of the relevant contracts, to the extent that we can construct that information, poses the same risks, because those contracts could be tied back to the names of the individual researchers.
UNM does not have a document containing summaries of each project. Nor do we have a historical list of classified contracts and/or faculty who have worked in this manner.
We have endeavored to respond to your question regarding how much money the relevant contracts are worth. This has been difficult because we do not keep records organized by security clearance.
With regard to the 18 Intergovernmental Personnel Act agreements, our financial data is not segregated by year. We identified $1,905,750 attributable to those 18 agreements, but that figure covers contracts with multiple years.
With regard to the other 53 individuals who have security clearances, there is no easy correspondence between each individual and one or more research contracts. While some contracts clearly require the researcher to have a security clearance, we are sometimes simply notified by a federal agency that one of our researchers has the clearance, and we do not know precisely which contract that clearance relates to. Moreover, even when the researcher involved works on a specific research contract, his or her work sometimes represents one small part of a large multi-year research contract, so that the dollar amount of the contract has no meaningful relationship to the portion of the work for which the security clearance was required.
We hope that this responds adequately to your request.
Frank D. Martinez,
UNM Custodian of Public Records
cc: Robert Bienstock, Assoc. University Counsel
Brian Foster, UNM Provost
Greg Hallstrom, Industrial Security