Officials impeded probe of ex-chief, CIA says

Deutch had stored secret files on his personal computers

February 01, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Top CIA officials impeded an internal investigation into evidence that the agency's former director, John M. Deutch, mishandled large volumes of secret material, a classified report by the agency's inspector general concludes.

The report details a series of actions by the agency's former executive director and general counsel that it says "had the effect of delaying a prompt and thorough investigation of this matter."

It asserts that George J. Tenet, the agency's current director and Deutch's top deputy, should have done more to "forcefully ensure" that the case was properly investigated. But the report also says that Tenet said he had given instructions that the investigation go forward unimpeded.

The report did not accuse Tenet or his aides of violating any laws in their handling of the incident. But at the inspector general's recommendation, the CIA has set up a panel to examine whether Tenet and other top officials handled the case appropriately.

The investigation of Deutch began in December 1996, as he was leaving office. According to the inspector general's report, CIA computer security specialists discovered he had placed large volumes of classified material on personal computers in his home, including information about some of the government's most sensitive covert operations.

Thats was a possible violation of agency rules and federal law, but the report says an inquiry by security officials was effectively shelved after a few months. The CIA did not tell the Justice Department about the case for more than a year.

The inspector general did so in early 1998, after an agency employee complained to the inspector general's office that the inquiry had not been properly handled, according to officials knowledgeable about the investigation.

Tenet learned of the possible security breach almost immediately but did not move to reprimand Deutch until the inspector general had notified the Justice Department of a possible violation and completed his report on how the case had been handled inside the CIA.

After reviewing the case, the Justice Department decided in April not to prosecute Deutch, who lost his security clearances. He issued a statement in August apologizing for his actions.

The inspector general's report discloses that three days after Deutch learned that his computer practices were under review, he deleted more than 1,000 classified files from his personal computers. The report also says that Deutch declined to be interviewed by the CIA's security officials.

The inspector general found no evidence that the classified material on Deutch's computers was obtained by another country, although there was no way to be certain.

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