- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2000

The staff director of the House Intelligence Committee who killed himself June 4 was under investigation by the committee, which oversees the U.S. government's most sensitive secrets, The Washington Times has learned.

John Millis, 47, a former CIA operations officer who had been placed on administrative leave by the committee, was found dead at the Breezeway Motel in Fairfax City, Va., Police Chief Doug Scott said. Police ruled he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As committee staff director, Mr. Millis had access to the U.S. intelligence community's most intimate secrets. He knew about all U.S. covert action operations, which require written presidential notifications.

He also was privy to the most sensitive information collected by CIA agents, electronic eavesdropping and photographic satellites.

According to police, Mr. Millis had called a friend and said he was distraught over being placed on administrative leave with pay by committee Chairman Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican. Mr. Millis also said he was facing administrative and criminal penalties as possible outcomes of the investigation.

The friend then dialed *69, the automatic call-back sequence, and was connected to the Breezeway Motel in Fairfax. The friend explained to the motel operator that Mr. Millis was threatening to commit suicide.

Police were called and upon arriving found Mr. Millis dead in the bathroom.

Mr. Goss could not be reached for comment. The committee's staff and Mr. Goss' spokeswoman did not return several telephone calls seeking comment on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Millis' departure from the committee.

However, several U.S. government officials said Mr. Millis was fired and that the investigation was related to improper activities by him.

Chief Scott said the investigation into his death was handled with extreme care in light of the case of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr., whose shooting death in 1993 was ruled a suicide. The investigation into Mr. Foster's death, however, left many unanswered questions and spawned conspiracy theories.

Chief Scott said the detective who investigated Mr. Millis' death made sure there were no unanswered questions that might indicate a conspiracy, because of his CIA background and role as the committee staff director.

"Our detective knew that going in," Chief Scott said. "That's why he was very careful in processing the scene and checking for anything that might be suspicious."

After Mr. Millis was found dead, FBI agents and Capitol Police were sent to the motel to look for classified documents, but found none. Security officials, however, recovered classified documents from a safe in Mr. Millis' home.

An FBI spokesman said the FBI was not investigating Mr. Millis for unauthorized disclosures.

Mr. Goss said in a statement at the time of Mr. Millis' death that he was stunned by the loss.

"It seems that there are always more 'whys' than there are answers when a tragedy like this occurs," Mr. Goss said. "It also seems that words alone are insufficient to alleviate the enormous pain we feel. John will be greatly missed by members and staff alike."

The statement made no mention that Mr. Millis was under investigation.

CIA Director George J. Tenet said in a statement that "we in the intelligence community are shocked and saddened by this tragic loss. We worked closely with John for many years. He was a tenacious advocate for a strong national intelligence capability."

Mr. Millis had publicly criticized former CIA Director John Deutch, calling him the worst director in the agency's history. During a speech at the Smithsonian Institution Feb. 15, Mr. Millis said Mr. Deutch inflicted "major damage" to the CIA's espionage branch.

The criticism prompted some officials to speculate that Mr. Millis may have improperly disclosed information about an investigation of Mr. Deutch by the CIA's inspector general.

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