- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

A top FBI official told a Senate committee yesterday that despite ongoing security enhancements at the bureau since the arrest of confessed Russian spy Robert P. Hanssen, he could not guarantee that other spies are still not operating today in the FBI.
Assistant Director Kenneth H. Senser, who heads the FBI's security division, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bureau is "still at a substantial risk" of being compromised by FBI agents and other employees with access to key internal documents.
"Certainly a lot of things have been done since the Hanssen arrest and we have a better chance of detecting [spies] today than a year ago, but I cannot say they would be detected," he said in response to a question from senior committee member Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.
Mr. Senser, on loan from the CIA to help the FBI correct security problems, said it would cost $78 million to begin the necessary programs to upgrade 15 internal security areas the FBI has determined in need of "critical" improvements with additional costs being likely.
He told the committee that the FBI did not yet know the "total extent" of the costs involved. FBI Assistant Director John Collingwood, who heads the bureau's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, called the $78 million figure a "starting point."
Mr. Senser's comments followed nearly two hours of testimony by former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster, who headed a seven-member commission that investigated FBI security problems.
The commission said FBI senior executives paid little attention to significant deficiencies in the bureau's internal security system, that internal security concerns were given a low priority, that security training was virtually nonexistent and that management problems led to internal security breakdowns.
"The depth of Hanssen's betrayal is shocking, but equally shocking is the ease with which he was able to steal classified material," Mr. Webster said.
"Although it is impossible to eliminate intelligence efforts directed against our national security, the commission attempted to recommend changes in FBI security programs that will minimize the harm those who betray us do," he said. "The changes should also shorten the time between the defection of these individuals and their detection."
In a personal note, Mr. Webster said he was "painfully aware" that Hanssen's spying activities began in 1979 when he served as FBI director.
"While I worked hard to strengthen its counterintelligence capabilities to detect and capture spies of hostile countries in hindsight I took our own internal security procedures for granted and I share in that institutional responsibility," he said.
He also told the committee that most spies volunteer to turn over information in exchange for money and that, as a result, the FBI needed to upgrade background and financial investigations and increase the number of its own spies in other countries.
"Almost every spy that we have found, both in the CIA and the FBI, has been found with the aid of recruited sources of our own in other hostile intelligence agencies," he said.
The commission, after a 13-month investigation, was highly critical of what it described as systemic security flaws in the FBI that allowed Hanssen to operate as a spy for the Soviet Union and Russia for 22 years.
It targeted the FBI's failure to control sensitive information and to investigate financial and computer-misuse issues that enabled Hanssen to obtain secret information. It also criticized an October 2001 FBI decision to lift need-to-know restrictions on access to highly sensitive intelligence on the bureau's main computer system.
Mr. Webster made numerous recommendations for restructuring FBI security, including a new security division reporting directly to Director Robert S. Mueller III, a career security officer program, sweeping changes in computer and information security, a stronger centralized personnel security system and regular financial reporting.
He also suggested wider polygraph screening, an improved security police force and more stringent document and data controls.
The commission's report found that Hanssen mined the FBI computer system to compromise "over 50 FBI human sources and potential recruits," causing those who work with the bureau to fear that Hanssen's information "will lead to their discovery."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide