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Government prying into dating games

September 20, 1999

Talk about every man's dream. And who knows? In this day of equality, it may be many a woman's dream, too. Concerned about potential security breaches, the U.S. Department of Energy has put 67,000 federal employees on notice that they must file a detailed report concerning any "private relationship" established with a foreign national in countries that are developing nuclear weapons.

The one loophole - employees do not need to report one-night stands.

How many lecherous hands will this play directly into? "Gee Natasha, last night was great and I would love to see you again, but for that to happen I'd need to see your passport, your checking account number, copies of your medical and dental records and the names of all your old boyfriends."

In some ways this mirrors real life; anything more than one night is just too complicated.

What will this mean for more traditional couples who do have to file? Nothing takes the fizz out of a budding romance faster than asking to photocopy her back tax records. It doesn't seem right as a symbol of your love to profess you will swim the deepest ocean, climb the highest mountain and put her on file with the DOE. "Oh darling, the flowers were a nice gesture, but do you love me enough to list me with your government as a potential subversive?"

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The new memorandum affects federal employees who are cleared to handle defense secrets. It says workers must report sexual encounters, friendships or professional relationships with people who live in the former Soviet republics, China, India, Israel, North Korea, Cuba and Taiwan.

Right off, you wonder if the women of Pakistan and Iraq are insulted they didn't make the list. There's sort of an implicit statement by DOE that they don't expect the issue will ever come up. As in "You probably shouldn't date these ladies, but frankly Pakistan ain't exactly Sweden, if you know what we're saying."

According to the DOE, even if the relationship with a foreign, bomb-wielding national is no more than "private time" in an office, or the chance swapping of some personal or professional information at a water cooler, employees still have to file a report. So 50 years from now when the files are declassified, archivists will blow the dust off such revelations as:

Memo - Eyes only.

From: Sid Muckalewski, Deputy Undersecretary of Nerve-wracking Affairs for the Plutonium Research Division of the Code Name "Dangerous Insect" Project.

To: The U.S. Dept. of Energy.

Re: Private information of one Sim Ying, citizen of China, ascertained during private conversation.

Content: Family cat "Mittens" had litter of eight.

Because of the one-night-stand exemption, some federal workers have grumbled that in the government's eyes, they might be more easily compromised by a person selling them a car than by someone with whom they are sharing an evening in the sack.

Which may not be far from the truth, given the status of today's male/female relationships. With most men, it's not a question of keeping her from finding out his formula for solid rocket propellants, but rather keeping her from finding out his home phone number.

He's not going to tell her anything that could let her find his apartment, much less where he keeps the keys to the thermo-nuclear launch vehicle.

And face it, knowledge of nuclear secrets isn't the aphrodisiac it was in the '50s. There aren't too many pick-up lines any more that start out "Hey baby, I know how to convert a steam-powered rice gin into a proton accelerator - want to come upstairs?"

The underworld of shadowy nuclear intrigue has declined in equal proportion to the quality of Tom Clancy spy novels. When he starts writing titles like "Clear and Present Shortage of Investment Capital," you know you've entered a new age.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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