President overhauls counterspy network

May 04, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Moving to close holes in the U.S. counterspy network exposed by the Aldrich H. Ames case, President Clinton overhauled the nation's counterintelligence structure yesterday.

But Mr. Clinton's changes, unveiled at a Senate intelligence committee hearing, received a skeptical reception from leaders of the panel, who argued that the revisions stop short of the needed reforms.

Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., the committee's chairman, angrily accused CIA Director R. James Woolsey of "posturing" in opposing a Senate bill that would deal with the problem by

giving the FBI overall counterintelligence responsibility.

Mr. Clinton's revisions, contained in a presidential decision directive, were meant to head off proposals in Congress. They strengthened the power of the National Security Council over counterintelligence, designated a senior FBI official to head a key counterespionage group at the CIA as well as CIA officials to work at the FBI, and created new policy and operations boards to coordinate and oversee the work.

The moves came against a backdrop of differences in the cultures and missions of the CIA and the FBI, worsened by rivalries and a failure to share information. Those divisions persisted despiteattempts to resolve them over the years, and they finally culminated in the Ames case.

Ames, a 31-year CIA veteran with access to some of the agency's most sensitive secrets, drew a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole last week after admitting that he served as a mole for the Soviet Union and later the Russians since 1985.

"The root cause of the Ames case -- the things that enabled him to gravely damage our national security for so long -- were counterintelligence procedures and programs that did not work," FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told the committee.

The CIA failed to advise the FBI for two years that Ames' 1991 polygraph results were suspicious, even though the FBI had joined in the hunt for a mole at the agency, Mr. DeConcini has noted.

Mr. Freeh joined Mr. Woolsey in contending at the hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that giving the FBI director overall counterintelligence responsibility, as provided for in a bill introduced by Mr. DeConcini and Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., would be to ignore the "critical roles played by the CIA in counterintelligence."

Deputy Attorney General Jaime S. Gorelick contended that the legislation was "too blunt an instrument" for the delicate job of assigning counterintelligence responsibilities, arguing that the task should be left to the presidential directive.

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