- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

A sweeping bipartisan bill putting controls on the FBI, including mandated polygraph tests and the creation of an Inspector General's Office with independent jurisdiction, was introduced yesterday by two leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As part of the FBI Reform Act of 2002, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and committee chairman, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said they hope to correct "institutional problems" at the FBI in the wake of the September 11 attacks on America.

"The men and women of the FBI … have performed with great professionalism, determination and courage," Mr. Leahy said. "But much of the institutional machinery they must work within at the FBI has become, over many years and in many ways, rusty, unresponsive and unexamined with fresh eyes."

"This FBI reform bill is a long time in coming," Mr. Grassley said. "This bill and continued oversight work are about restoring law and order inside the FBI so that public confidence and public safety and security can be restored on the outside."

With the passage by Congress of the USA Patriot Act, which gave additional powers to the Justice Department and the FBI in the wake of the terrorist attacks, Mr. Leahy and Mr. Grassley said there was a need for increased congressional oversight and that the "hands off" approach to the bureau that Congress has taken in the past "is no longer an option."

Under the bill, the senators propose to improve accountability and oversight of the FBI; enhance the security both inside and outside the bureau; and prepare the FBI for the "missions it now faces and will face in the 21st Century."

The bill calls for the inclusion of FBI employees under the Federal Whistleblower Act to strengthen whistleblower protections for bureau employees who report misconduct, creates an internal-security division, calls for additional reporting responsibilities to Congress, and ends an FBI "double standard" where senior management officials are not disciplined as harshly for misconduct as rank-and-file agents.

Mr. Grassley, who wrote the whistleblower law, said it was time to establish legal protections for FBI whistleblowers.

"They were left out in 1989 with the understanding that the attorney general would issue regulations to institute protections. The FBI never made good on that commitment," Mr. Grassley said.

A key focus of the bill is an expansion of authority for the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General to investigate all accusations of misconduct by FBI employees not just those referred by the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility. In the past, the inspector general could investigate the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration only when ordered to do so by the attorney general or his deputy.

Attorney General John Ashcroft gave the inspector general authority in July to investigate problems at the FBI without his permission.

Mr. Leahy and Mr. Grassley also proposed that security at the FBI be improved with the creation of a "Career Security Program" to ensure the bureau had a "trained professional cadre" of people who can protect against future spies a system that was lacking when former FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, a veteran counterintelligence specialist, was identified and arrested as a Russian spy.

The internal-security program would include polygraph tests and the formalization of the FBI police, so that the most qualified people can be retained to protect some of the most sensitive terrorist targets in the nation.

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