Possible Impacts of Major Counter Terrorism Security Actions on Research, Development, and Higher Education

The Congress, the executive branch, and scientific and technical communities have adopted and are considering research and development (R&D) and education-related security measures to counteract terrorism. There is widespread agreement on the need for these measures, but some experts say that they could have unintended consequences. Some of these actions are included in the PATRIOT/USA Act, P.L. 107-56 ; in addition the Office of Homeland Security, federal agencies, and the scientific and technical community have proposed or taken other actions. Activities relating to higher education (in H.R. 3525 , S. 1749 , and other bills) include controlling the visa entry and educational programs of foreign students and tracking their movement through the higher education system. Activities relating to limiting access to scientific and technical information include controlling access to R&D laboratories, self-policing, classification and reclassification of already released materials, withdrawal of information from federal agency websites, possible additional exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) and withholding information categorized as "sensitive but unclassified." Legislative proposals dealing with access to biological agents that could be used by terrorists appear in H.R. 3448 , S. 1765 , H.R. 3160 , S. 1635 , H.R. 3457 , and S. 1764 . These include proposals to register users of potentially toxic biological and chemical agents; to inventory laboratories that conduct research using pathogenic biological agents; to limit access to R&D laboratories and biological research agents; and to give tax preferences to firms that develop tools to deal with bioterrorism. Among the unintended consequences of these actions, as cited by experts, are high financial costs, especially to academic laboratories, of instituting security and tracking measures, the possible deleterious impacts on freedom of scientific information exchange and scientific inquiry, and the possible loss to the United States of foreign technical workers in areas of short supply among U.S. citizens. Policymakers might seek to ensure that those affected by counter terrorism policies that affect R&D -- scientists, academics, industrialists, and the public -- are involved in security-related decisionmaking and implementation of regulations. Through "Operation Shield America," the Customs Service has expanded prohibitions on technology exports which terrorists could use. Some say that this might help to prevent terrorism; others say it could possibly reduce the competitiveness of U.S. technology sales in world markets. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society, the American Psychological Association, and other professional groups have offered to assist the government and are monitoring opportunities for their members to compete for federal awards for counter terrorism R&D and related activities.