- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The FBI, famous for its straight-laced crime-fighting image, is considering whether to relax its hiring rules over how often applicants could have used marijuana or other illegal drugs earlier in life.

Some senior FBI managers have been deeply frustrated that they could not hire applicants who acknowledged occasional marijuana use in college, but in some cases already perform top-secret work at other government agencies, such as the CIA or State Department.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III will make the final decision.

“We can’t say when or if this is going to happen, but we are exploring the possibility,” spokesman Stephen Kodak said.

The change would ease limits about how often — and how many years ago — applicants for jobs such as intelligence analysts, linguists, computer specialists, accountants and others had used illegal drugs.

The rules, however, would not be relaxed for FBI special agents, the fabled “G-men” who conduct most criminal and terrorism investigations. Also, the new plan would continue to ban current drug use.

The nation’s former anti-drug czar said he understands the FBI’s dilemma.

“The integrity of the FBI is a known national treasure that must be protected,” said retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, a former White House drug czar. “But there should be no hard-and-fast rule that suggests you can’t ever have used drugs. As long as it’s clear that’s behind you and you’re overwhelmingly likely to remain drug free, you should be eligible.”

Current rules prohibit the FBI from hiring anyone who used marijuana within the past three years or more than 15 times ever. They also ban anyone who used other illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, within the past 10 years or more than five times.

“That 16th time is a killer,” Gen. McCaffrey said.

The new FBI proposal would judge applicants based on their “whole person,” rather than limiting drug-related experiences to an arbitrary number. It would consider the circumstances of a person’s previous drug use, such as their age, and the likelihood of future usage.

The relaxed standard already is in use at most other U.S. intelligence agencies, although the Drug Enforcement Administration will not hire agents who used illegal drugs, with exceptions possible for “limited youthful and experimental use of marijuana.”

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