You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

CIA able to keep its secrets on budgets, bad apples

IG documents reveal porn, fraud, other misconduct

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

From contract fraud and false billing to nepotism and possession of child pornography, wide-ranging accusations of misconduct have surfaced at agencies all across the federal government -- even, it turns out, inside the nation's revered spy agency.

But unlike almost all of its federal counterparts, the Central Intelligence Agency's office of inspector general provides no information to the public about the results of its work investigating accusations of misbehaving employees and contractors.

Yet nearly 200 pages of heavily redacted, previously undisclosed CIA documents obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act provide a window into just some of the watchdog's recent activities.

During an 18-month span from July 2010 to December 2011, for instance, the office closed at least a half-dozen cases involving "nonaccredited degrees." Among dozens of other cases, the office also closed three probes stemming from accusations of nepotism and two others involving child pornography, records show.

For the most part, the records released to The Times are so heavily redacted that it's impossible to tell, on a case-by-case basis, whether the internal probes focused on contractors, officers or agents, nor do they provide much detail on the outcomes: whether anyone was prosecuted, fired, suspended or exonerated.

A CIA spokesman said the agency takes swift action in response to misconduct findings.

"Information about possible crimes that comes to light as a result of any investigation is reported to the appropriate law enforcement organization, like the Department of Justice," CIA spokesman Preston Golson said.

"Any information regarding possible crimes against children is referred immediately," he said. "This is a responsibility the CIA takes very seriously."

Among other cases, a technical intelligence officer, a global response staff officer, a project manager, a logistics officer and an adjudicator all came under internal CIA investigations into nonaccredited degrees, records show.

A former office of general counsel attorney was investigated for time and attendance fraud, as was a national clandestine-service officer. A senior manager came under scrutiny for false expense claims. Yet another investigation delved into "possible unauthorized intelligence collection by Directorate of Intelligence Officers," according to records.

Both of the child pornography investigations were closed during the second half of 2010, one stemming from materials found on an agency laptop and other on an agency network.

The documents make no reference to the sex scandal involving David H. Petraeus, who resigned last week as CIA director, but reveal a watchdog agency somewhat hamstrung early this year by budgetary constraints.

"Over the past decade, the resources provided to the OIG have not kept pace with the dramatic growth in CIA operations and spending," CIA Inspector General David B. Buckley wrote in a January report, which detailed his agency's activities over the previous six months.

"In fact, unlike the [inspectors general at the Defense and State departments and USAID], the CIA OIG received no supplemental or operational funding during the contingency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or the War on Terror, and did not forward deploy to the war zones," Mr. Buckley wrote.

He also outlined his office's work on 21 audit reports and six inspection reports covering "various covert action, proprietary, field station and other intelligence activities of the CIA."

Given the agency's penchant for secrecy, however, the documents weren't released to the public even in redacted form as a matter of policy.

"The CIA inspector general's reports are classified and therefore they are not publicly available," Mr. Golson said Tuesday. He added, however, that the reports are sent to the CIA's director, who forwards them to intelligence oversight committees in Congress.

Scott H. Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight Group, a nonpartisan watchdog, said there could be more transparency without compromising national intelligence.

"Unfortunately, the CIA IG prohibits public access to any specific plans or reports highlighting waste, fraud, abuse or ethics violations," Mr. Amey said.

"It is really hard to imagine that every audit or investigation involves classified programs, methods or sources, and therefore a more balanced position regarding public access should be on the table."

Former CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz, an adjunct law professor at the University of Virginia, said he understands the need to keep the work of the internal watchdog secret as well as arguments pushing for more transparency.

But he said the notion that the inspector general's office doesn't have the resources it needs does raise concerns.

"There are plenty of ways in which the CIA IG, if he or she feels strangled for dough, can make that known," Mr. Hitz said.

Mr. Buckley raised concerns about funding in a Jan. 13 letter to Mr. Petraeus that was included in a report on the inspector general's activities.

In the same message to Mr. Petraeus, Mr. Buckley also sought greater statutory authority for the watchdog office.

"As previously reported, I had determined that our ability to best conduct investigations of allegations of wrongdoing by CIA employees and contractors, pertaining to CIA activities, is hampered by the lack of statutory authority to support the conduct of such investigations, enjoyed by the other inspectors general," he wrote.

When he appeared before the Senate in 2010 for a confirmation hearing, Mr. Buckley was asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, whether the CIA inspector general's office had all of the powers it needed to operate in a "vigorous and effective" way.

"Madam Chair, I, as I understand the authorities of the office today and the mission that lies ahead I believe so," he responded at the time.

Mr. Golson said the inspector general's office had, indeed, sought "statutory enhancements" and that the requests have since been sent to congressional oversight committees.

© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.