Despite Problems, Energy Dept. Will Use Lie Detectors

The Energy Department decided yesterday to continue using lie detector tests to protect the nation's nuclear arms stockpile, despite a scientific study that found severe shortcomings in the tests' accuracy.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the department must use the best tools available to protect sensitive information about the stockpile. Critics said the department is making a mistake by ignoring recommendations of the study of polygraph effectiveness done six months ago at the urging of Congress.

"Basically they've ignored the evidence," said Stephen Fienberg of Carnegie Mellon University, who chaired the National Academy of Sciences study.

A spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said the Energy Department's response to the National Academy of Sciences report is "a surprising and disappointing result" that is hard to understand.

The Energy Department imposed lie detector requirements on employees several years ago in the aftermath of the Wen Ho Lee spy controversy at the department's nuclear weapons laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. Many scientists at department labs objected that the tests were inherently inaccurate, which prompted congressional inquiries and the scientific review.

Congress ordered the Energy Department to take the study's findings into account.

In a proposed rule, however, the department says retaining the program is well-suited to fulfilling national security needs.

The scientific review headed by Fienberg concluded that federal agencies should not rely on lie detectors to screen workers and job applicants because the machines simply are too inaccurate.

U.S. Calls for Investigation Into Bombing in Venezuela

The United States called for an investigation into a weekend bombing that ripped through the site where Venezuelan negotiators reached an agreement to hold a referendum on President Hugo Chavez's government.

No one was injured in Saturday's blast, which badly damaged the lower floors of the Caracas Teleport building, including the basement where government and opposition negotiators had met with Organization of American States officials.

After months of negotiations, both sides agreed to hold a referendum after Aug. 19, and the U.S. State Department suggested the bomb was designed to undermine the agreement, due to be formally signed after Easter.

Post Office Anticipates Flood Of Tax Mail to Meet Deadline

Americans putting off their taxes until the last minute are expected to add more than 30 million items to the stream of mail today , the Postal Service said.

The post office said that, as usual, it adjusts its collection and processing operations to handle the extra volume. "We are encouraging customers to avoid the rush and mail their tax returns as early in the day as possible," said post office consumer advocate Francia Smith.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters