- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2000

A Senate committee is focusing on the actions of former CIA general counsel Michael O'Neil who was identified in a CIA report as withholding information from investigators and the Justice Department about activities of his boss, former CIA chief John Deutch.
"We have Mr. O'Neil coming up on March 1," said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Mr. Shelby said the oversight panel will question Mr. O'Neil and former CIA Executive Director Nora Slatkin, whose appearance before the committee has been delayed because of her husband's poor health.
A major focus of the probe will be on Mr. O'Neil, a former Democratic House staff member who is now a Washington lawyer. Committee sources said they would ask him about the handling of computer hardware found in Mr. Deutch's Bethesda, Md., home soon after secrets were found on them in December 1996 shortly after Mr. Deutch resigned as CIA director.
A CIA inspector general's report partially released Tuesday portrays Mr. O'Neil as a key figure in the questionable handling of a CIA security investigation.
In particular, Inspector General L. Britt Snider stated that Mr. O'Neil refused to turn over four computer storage cards, known as PCMCIA cards, that finally were picked up by a CIA security officer from Mr. Deutch's residence.
Mr. O'Neil held on to the cards for several weeks and refused to turn them over until a deputy and the CIA's deputy director for administration demanded their release to security investigators, the report said.
The inspector general's report stated that Mr. O'Neil was planning to destroy the computer cards and discussed the destruction with Mr. Deutch after he had left the CIA.
However, the two CIA officials warned Mr. O'Neil not to destroy the cards because they might be needed for a "leak investigation" of Mr. Deutch, according to the report.
Richard Calder, CIA deputy director for administration, told the inspector general that he "went to O'Neil on three or four occasions in an attempt to obtain the four PCMCIA cards and it took two or three weeks to reach a satisfactory arrangement for O'Neil to surrender them," the report said.
"We had to hammer O'Neil to give the [PCMCIA] cards to security," said the deputy CIA general counsel, who was not named in the report.
One senior CIA official told Mrs. Slatkin "the investigation was dragging on and that unidentified individuals believed that this was being done purposely in order to 'cover up' the event," the report said, noting that Mr. O'Neil's refusal to turn over the computer cards "supported the 'cover up' perception."
According to the report, Mr. O'Neil told the inspector general that he "never refused to turn over the cards."
Mr. O'Neil could not be reached for comment.
A former senior intelligence official said Mr. O'Neil, while a House intelligence committee aide, demanded that the CIA report every minor activity to Congress.
"He was arguably the most partisan intelligence staffer ever and the leader of the movement in Congress to use congressional oversight to restrict U.S. intelligence activities," the former official said. "It's rank hypocrisy that when he gets over there [at CIA] the first thing he does is cover up a major security breach from Congress."
According to the CIA report, Mr. O'Neil also was involved in questionable arrangements for a CIA contract that was modified several times at Mr. O'Neil's request so Mr. Deutch could keep the CIA-supplied computers at his residence.
The computers were to be used only for official CIA business and the report states that he specifically wanted to keep the computers because they contained personal financial information.
Mr. O'Neil, who left the CIA on Oct. 1, 1997, also failed to send a "crimes report" to the Justice Department despite evidence that laws were violated. He also withheld information from the House and Senate intelligence committees, that were only informed months later by the inspector general.
According to the report, actions by Mrs. Slatkin and Mr. O'Neil "had the effect of delaying a prompt and thorough investigation of this matter."

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