- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

Now that Janet Reno has decided not to prosecute Al Gore for shaking down all those Buddhist nuns for campaign contributions, the next Cabinet-level official she will probably decide not to prosecute is former Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch. And that will be a crying shame, because the vice president merely violated a few dubious federal campaign-financing laws. But as a member of President Clinton's Cabinet, Mr. Deutch undermined the integrity of the entire system of keeping national secrets secret.

You see, the director of central intelligence is not just the director of the CIA. He is the head of the entire U.S. intelligence community and is responsible for the integrity of the system that controls access to our national secrets.

Mr. Deutch, for all of his tenure as director, frequently and deliberately operated outside those official safe and secure channels. He has admitted that he illegally generated, copied, transmitted and disseminated to "unauthorized" people in the White House and elsewhere secret, top-secret and sensitive compartmented information, or SCI. Furthermore, Mr. Deutch has admitted he did so because he didn't want anyone else in the intelligence community to know what he was doing.

Perhaps you know about secret and top-secret information, but you probably don't even know about SCI. The consequences to U.S. national security of SCI being disclosed to unauthorized persons are deemed to be so severe that no blanket SCI clearances are ever issued. Each SCI program or policy is assigned a code word, and only the minimum number of carefully chosen individuals frequently no more than a dozen, hardly ever as many as a hundred are ever read-in to that particular CodeWord/SCI.

All SCI is stored in a special highly secure, soundproof, electronic bug-proof vault called a SCIF. Before an individual is read-in to specific CodeWord/SCI, he is required to read each time a declaration that he realizes (a) he is about to be read-in to the specific CodeWord/SCI; (b) that he may not take notes either then, or afterward from memory, of any information revealed to him; (c) that he may not thereafter discuss the CodeWord/ SCI with anyone not also certified to have been read-in to that specific CodeWord/SCI; (d) that any such discussions that do take place with authorized persons must take place in a SCIF; and (e) that if he violates his oath, he realizes that the federal government will prosecute him to the full extent allowed by law, which can include life in prison.

The person being read-in is then required to sign and date that declaration in the presence of the custodian of the CodeWord/SCI, who also then signs and dates the declaration and record of read-in. According to the Report of the CIA's Office of Inspector General, sent to Congress in July 1999, Mr. Deutch, on numerous occasions after being read-in to dozens of DOD CodeWord/SCI programs had then immediately violated the oath he had just taken and created on unsecure computers files of what he had just learned.

Furthermore, he subsequently incorporated many of his purloined CodeWord/SCI files into memos he sent to various unauthorized non-read-in individuals in the Clinton-Gore White House. All these secret, top-secret and CodeWord/SCI files and memos were found the day after Mr. Deutch left the CIA in December 1996 on John Deutch's unsecure personal computers connected to the Internet at his two homes and on portable unsecure magnetic memory-cards that he frequently carried around with him in his pocket.

Mr. Deutch had intended to keep, illegally, all these secret, top-secret and SCI files which no one knew he had as a private citizen. Of all the flagrant disregard by high-level Clinton administration officials of the federal rules and procedures for keeping national secrets secret, nothing outrages more the men and women who have been bound by these rules and have subjected themselves to those procedures all these years, than to see the man in charge of the system having deliberated violated the most sacred of those rules and procedures, safeguarding and securing SCI get away scot-free.

If Janet Reno decides not to prosecute Deutch, it will not be just a bunch of congressional Republicans who are outraged, this time. Scores of Americans, current and past holders of secret and top-secret clearances, will be outraged. If Janet Reno doesn't know that, someone better tell her.

Gordon Prather is a physicist who has been involved in research and development at several Department of Energy labs, DOE headquarters and the Pentagon. He has also served as legislative assistant to a U.S. senator.

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