- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

FBI senior executives paid little attention to significant deficiencies in the bureau's internal security system and even ignored warnings that they should investigate veteran counterintelligence agent Robert P. Hanssen as a Russian spy, an investigation concluded.
The 13-month inquiry, conducted by a seven-member commission headed by former CIA and FBI Director William H. Webster, said FBI executives hampered by a fragmented and uncoordinated internal security system failed to correct long-standing bureau problems.
According to Capitol Hill sources familiar with the investigation, FBI executives were told during a 1996 debriefing of FBI Agent Earl Edwin Pitts, who also was charged with spying, that they should focus on Hanssen. That information, the sources said, never got to the head of FBI security until 1999.
Commission investigators, according to the sources, also found that officials at the Russian Embassy in the District lodged a formal complaint in the mid-1990s, saying a disgruntled FBI employee had attempted to hand over secret information. The sources identified the employee as Hanssen, but said no investigation was ever ordered.
The investigators, according to the sources, also found that the FBI never questioned Hanssen when he requested that the hard drive on his computer be fixed and they found a private software package used to hack into computer systems.
The commission's investigation, expected to be released tomorrow to Attorney General John Ashcroft, documents extensive FBI technology and management problems that led to internal security breakdowns, the sources said. The probe concluded that FBI executives provided little attention to security matters, which were given a low priority.
Investigators also said the FBI used outdated computers, networks and encryption standards and that, as a result, morale among rank-and-file agents was low and dropping, the sources said.
Some of the commission's members met with Hanssen over four days. He is required under a plea agreement to cooperate with federal authorities.
Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh asked Mr. Webster to review the FBI's security programs shortly after the Hanssen arrest in February 2001. Mr. Freeh also ordered sweeping changes in internal security measures, including expanded use of polygraph tests for FBI employees.
Hanssen's arrest exposed weaknesses in the FBI's internal security, including document-handling procedures and a policy of not requiring regular polygraph tests for its agents. Hanssen, like most veteran agents, never underwent routine polygraph examinations that might have detected his activities sooner.
Mr. Freeh's successor, Robert S. Mueller III, has since ordered polygraph tests for 700 key FBI officials. The FBI said yesterday it was considering similar tests for "a few thousand" others.
"We have identified up to 700 persons who were responsible for looking at highly classified information and have run a polygraph program that I believe has been successful in that we have some assurance on all but 1 percent, and the others we are looking at," Mr. Mueller said at a news briefing at FBI headquarters.
"We are heartened that less than 1 percent of the 700 raised issues that require further investigation," he said.
Mr. Mueller told reporters the FBI could have done a better job of security, perhaps even picking up Hanssen's activities earlier, but he was committed to making security within the bureau a top priority.
FBI Assistant Director Kenneth Senser declined to discuss what problems were uncovered among the 1 percent, but said those individuals were being "worked with." None has been fired.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the FBI, yesterday said security program enhancements announced by Mr. Mueller sent a signal that security would be given a much higher priority.
"Even so, there's still no assurance that just any employee inside the agency won't be able to access almost anything they'd like to on the computer system," Mr. Grassley said. "The challenge for the FBI is to make sure that new bells and whistles for internal security don't distract FBI leaders from the fundamental scrutiny required to catch spies within their own ranks."
Hanssen, 56, was charged with giving secret national security information to Russia and the former Soviet Union. The FBI said he furnished national security information to KGB intelligence officers in exchange for diamonds and $600,000 in cash.

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