- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

Justice Department and FBI employees with access to secret or highly sensitive information have been told that, as a condition of employment, they must consent to warrantless searches of their offices at any time.
In the wake of the arrest of FBI Agent Robert P. Hanssen as a Russian spy, the employees were required to sign individual waivers granting the searches or face the cancellation of their security clearances.
The confidential waivers, sent earlier this year by Justice Department Security Chief Jerry Rubino, were approved by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
A top FBI official told a Senate panel last week that despite ongoing security upgrades since the Hanssen arrest he could not guarantee that other spies are not operating within 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.
The waivers, first reported by ABC News, say the searches would be conducted only after the attorney general or the deputy attorney general had determined there was evidence that the employee:
Is or may be disclosing classified information in an unauthorized manner.
Has incurred excessive debt or has acquired a level of affluence that cannot reasonably be explained.
Had the capability and opportunity to disclose classified information that is believed to have been lost or compromised to a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.
Has repeatedly or significantly mishandled or improperly stored classified information.
The three-page waiver said Justice Department and FBI security authorities are looking to prevent the release of information that could compromise an ongoing espionage investigation, reveal state-of-the-art technology or identify employees of a foreign power who are providing intelligence data to U.S. officials.
Hanssen, the 27-year FBI agent who pleaded guilty to espionage charges and is now co-operating with federal prosecutors in assessing the damage he caused, went undetected while making extensive use of the bureau's computerized case management systems to deliver secret documents to his Russian handlers.
Arrested by FBI agents Feb. 18, 2001, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of selling U.S. intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia beginning in October 1985. The government also said Hanssen conspired with agents from the Soviet KGB and its successor intelligence agency, the SVR, to deliver "information relating to the national defense of the United States."
Three Russian counterintelligence agents working for the United States were arrested as a result of his information and two of them were executed.
According to the waiver, Justice Department and FBI security authorities can search an employee's workplace, including locked briefcases and "electronic storage media whether owned by the government, by the employee, or by a third party."
The searches can be announced or unannounced, and can occur during the workday or after hours.
The order applies to any workplace on Justice Department property.
The FBI recently ordered polygraph tests for more than 200 employees who handle sensitive information and has since expanded that number to more than 700.
A report by former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster, delivered last week to the Senate, said senior executives paid little attention to significant deficiencies in the bureau's internal security system, internal security concerns were given a low priority, security training was virtually nonexistent and management problems led to internal security breakdowns.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide