- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2001

The arrest of Robert P. Hanssen on charges he spied for Moscow has exposed weaknesses in FBI internal security, including document-handling procedures and a policy of not requiring regular polygraph tests for its agents.
"The security procedures in place failed to identify his activity over a substantial period of time, so we want to look at that," said former FBI and CIA Director William Webster, who is heading a special commission to investigate FBI security procedures.
Mr. Hanssen, like most veteran special agents, never underwent routine polygraph examinations that might have detected his activities sooner, intelligence officials said yesterday.
The 27-year counterspy also appears never to have been subjected to special polygraph tests that come with being granted access to extraordinarily secret intelligence programs, the officials said.
"We're not sure he was ever polygraphed," said one official familiar with the case.
U.S. defense, intelligence and national security officials have begun preliminary inquiries into the damage caused by what appears to be a spying career that began in 1985 and involved large amounts of documents both paper and computerized sold to Moscow, said federal officials.
Mr. Hanssen is suspected of receiving more than $650,000 in cash and diamonds for his services as a "mole" inside the FBI's counterintelligence section. Court documents also say Moscow put $800,000 for him in a Russian bank.
The damage examination is said to focus on the loss of highly classified documents Mr. Hanssen took from FBI headquarters, field offices and other intelligence facilities and sold to the Soviet KGB intelligence service and its Russian successor, the SVR.
"This is extremely bad. The case touches equities across the community," said the intelligence official, referring to damage caused to numerous intelligence agencies, including the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and State Department intelligence.
"Equities" means lost agents, compromised electronic spy operations, and some of the most important secrets on how the FBI targets and tracks foreign spies.
Russia's government remained silent yesterday on what may have been one of its most successful espionage operations against the United States.
Moscow's intelligence service spokesman, Boris Labusov, yesterday told Russian television: "We never comment on whether any specific person has or has no relation to Russian special services."
However, Mr. Labusov suggested the arrest may have involved one of its agents, noting that "as long as intelligence exists there will be counterintelligence services and inevitable exposures."
Mr. Webster said in an interview that the internal security system for the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies was defeated by "an unusually skillful person who knew all about the procedures the bureau had in place to detect [spies] and he took the appropriate steps not to trip" any alarms.
Polygraphs can be useful in "neutral vetting" although Mr. Webster said he will not make any recommendations on its use until after the panel has completed its security review.
He noted that FBI agents now undergo drug testing and are accepting the practice. The CIA also adopted greater use of the polygraph and "people are using it and accepting it," said Mr. Webster.
FBI spokesman Bill Carter declined to comment when asked if Mr. Hanssen avoided a polygraph for his entire career.
"I doubt very much that there would have been any occasion under which the procedures required [Mr. Hanssen] to take a polygraph without 'probable cause,' " Mr. Webster said.
Mr. Webster said one option the panel will explore is to order document searches of FBI employees who leave buildings. The practice may not work because of the ease of removing digital media by concealment or by sending e-mail.
Computer system auditing and warning procedures also will be examined, said Mr. Webster.
Intelligence officials say the greatest national security damage came from the losses to FBI and CIA agent networks the exposure of recruited spies who provided intelligence.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the damage could be "exceptionally grave."
"Mr. Hanssen's alleged activities are of such scope that I don't believe that we will know the true extent of the damage for years to come," said Mr. Shelby.
Mr. Hanssen also did not have to undergo regular probes of his finances that might have detected the large sums federal investigators say he received from Moscow.
Mr. Hanssen had extraordinary access to intelligence material from agencies outside the FBI, according to a FBI affidavit made public Tuesday. He also took part in Special Access Programs ultrasecret so-called black programs involving electronic and other technical spying operations. Access to those programs usually requires periodic polygraph tests.
The National Security Agency for decades has required all its employees to take a polygraph test every several years and to allow checks into personal finances in a search for unexplained wealth.
The CIA adopted NSA security procedures seven years ago after the 1993 arrest of CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Ames, who passed two polygraphs in a spy career that began in the 1980s.
A Bush administration security official said FBI agents disdained the use of polygraphs for checking the reliability of agents because they regarded them as too unreliable and "beatable" by good liars.
"It used to be the view of FBI professionals that [foreign counterintelligence] polygraphs are useless," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Kenneth deGraffenreid, a former White House intelligence director, said he believes the national security damage in this case ranges from very grave to beyond calculation because of Mr. Hanssen's broad access to U.S. secrets.
"He's the guy who was supposed to protect us from foreign spies and he was a foreign spy," Mr. deGraffenreid said. "It is on par with Walker and Ames."
John A. Walker Jr. was uncovered in 1985 as a spy inside the U.S. Navy who provided Moscow with code secrets data that could have helped Moscow win a war against the United States.
The arrest shows that Moscow has not given up efforts to get U.S. secrets, Mr. deGraffenreid said.
"They're spying on us because they are still in the business of stealing American secrets because American secrets still have value to them," he said.
Mr. deGraffenreid said Mr. Hanssen appears to have avoided detection because the U.S. government lacks aggressive counterspy capabilities and because "our security is lousy."
Tighter security inside U.S. intelligence might have forced Mr. Hanssen to meet his handlers face to face and increased his risk of exposure, he said.
"With a strong security system, no one should be able to walk out of the FBI with those documents," Mr. deGraffenreid said, acknowledging that digital storage media have made security tougher.

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