New spy cases not coming, CIA's director now says

April 21, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The director of central intelligence said yesterday that he was wrong when he said there were many espionage cases that would be brought against people within the government.

The director, R. James Woolsey, said in a televised interview on Tuesday that there "absolutely" would be "a fair number of espionage cases" against people at several different government agencies. He repeated the assertion several times.

But yesterday, in a brief interview outside a Senate hearing room, Mr. Woolsey said he had erred. "I should have limited myself to saying 'leads,' not 'cases,' " he said. He did not elaborate.

The difference between a case and a lead, to a law-enforcement official, is substantial. A lead can be as insubstantial as an anonymous tip. A case, in the matter of prosecuting an official for espionage, needs to be an assemblage of hard evidence that can be brought to a jury without exposing government secrets.

Members of the congressional intelligence committees and officials at the FBI, which investigates accusations of espionage within the United States and refers cases to the Justice Department for prosecution, said they were furious at what they thought was an overstatement by Mr. Woolsey in his remarks Tuesday on the NBC news program "Today."

They said he misstated the facts and appeared to usurp the department's power to decide when leads add up to a case.

The CIA's chief congressional overseer, Sen. Dennis DeConcini, an Arizona Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Mr. Woolsey's remarks on Tuesday were intended to divert attention from the agency's failure to detect Aldrich H. Ames, the CIA officer accused of spying for Moscow.

Mr. DeConcini said Tuesday that the director intended "to divert attention from his failure to cooperate with the FBI, to divert attention from the Ames case and the CIA's conduct in it." Yesterday the senator called Mr. Woolsey's original remarks a mistake.

"I can't confirm that there may be a number of cases," Mr. DeConcini said.

The senator also said that Mr. Woolsey had adopted a garrison mentality in the face of the Ames case and that it was hurting the CIA.

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