Polygraphs ordered for FBI workers

500 senior managers, agents, clerks included

Hanssen spy case fallout

March 23, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - The FBI has responded to the Robert Hanssen spy case by quietly ordering polygraphs of 500 FBI employees in key national security positions.

"Before this, only those with access to very sensitive cases were required to take polygraphs," FBI spokesman Bill Carter said yesterday. "This expands the universe of people who will be subjected to the exams."

Hanssen, a 27-year FBI agent, was charged Feb. 18 with spying for Moscow for nearly 15 years. FBI officials have acknowledged that he was never polygraphed. After Hanssen's arrest, FBI Director Louis Freeh said he expected to widen the use of polygraphs beyond the screening of applicants, a policy he adopted in 1994.

Freeh expanded the use of polygraphs last week and ordered that they begin immediately, but no public announcement of the policy change was made.

Among those to be tested are 150 top managers in the FBI's Senior Executive Service, plus agents and clerks with access to classified national security computers and documents. Hanssen's job classification is among those positions that will be polygraphed.

Anyone who has passed a department polygraph within the past five years will be exempted from the initial round of exams.

Carter was unsure whether Freeh would be tested. Freeh was traveling and could not be reached.

There are 11,334 special agents in the FBI, and 15,949 support staff.

Former FBI Director William Webster, who is investigating the FBI's failure to detect Hanssen's spying sooner, is expected to recommend regular polygraph tests in his report next month.

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