Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A presidential commission examining U.S. intelligence failures related to weapons of mass destruction has fired an FBI agent for improperly supplying a classified CIA report to FBI headquarters, The Washington Times has learned.

The incident was viewed by officials close to the commission as an attempt by the FBI to influence the work of the panel, formed in the aftermath of the Iraq war to look at intelligence related to Iraq and other states involved in illicit weapons acquisition.

Officials said the agent was fired several weeks ago by the White House-sponsored Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, a secretive panel formed by President Bush in February.

The female FBI agent, who was assigned to work for the commission, improperly removed a highly classified CIA report produced for the panel that contained criticism of the FBI for its conduct of weapons-related intelligence gathering, the sources said.

According to the officials, the document was removed from a secure vault and given to FBI headquarters official David Szady, a senior counterintelligence officer. A short time later, FBI officials voiced criticism of the CIA report to the commission, triggering an investigation that led to the female agent, who was not identified by name.

The woman admitted to removing the report and was dismissed with a recommendation from the commission that she also be fired from the FBI. However, FBI officials have protected the agent, and she has been reassigned to another post within the agency, the officials said.

The fact that no action was taken against the agent is an indication that her activities were approved by senior FBI officials, the sources said.

One official said the episode was an attempt by the FBI to influence the outcome of a presidential commission. “The FBI is out of control,” said the source familiar with the incident.

Commission spokesman Carl Kropf wouldn’t discuss the matter.

“It is our policy not to discuss internal activities, to include administrative and operational matters,” Mr. Kropf said.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter declined to comment.

The FBI is charged with investigating illegal arms-proliferation activities in the United States. However, its role in countering weapons proliferation has been largely subordinated to the higher priority of investigating foreign terrorism.

Other officials said the latest document incident highlights the FBI’s aggressive bureaucratic infighting aimed at protecting the bureau from criticism and needed structural reforms. The bureau engaged in similar lobbying during the September 11 commission investigation and the subsequent drafting of intelligence-reform legislation, the officials said.

One intelligence official said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III lobbied the September 11 commission panelists and members of Congress who wrote the intelligence-reform legislation so that the agency, which is charged with conducting domestic intelligence gathering, would not be forced to change its intelligence and security structure.

Most of the intelligence reforms carried out in recently passed legislation focused on foreign intelligence gathering, despite the fact that the September 11 commission identified numerous lapses within the FBI as it related to the terrorist plot.

The 10-member WMD commission is headed by Laurence H. Silberman, a federal judge, and former Sen. Charles S. Robb, a Democrat and a former governor of Virginia. It’s charged with assessing “whether the intelligence community is sufficiently authorized, organized, equipped, trained and resourced” to identify weapons threats.

The panel also is looking into U.S. intelligence prior to the March 2003 start of the Iraq war and whether it misstated Iraq’s stocks of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and related goods.

It was formed shortly after David Kay, head of the CIA’s Iraqi Survey Group, told Congress in January 2004 that CIA and other intelligence agencies misreported that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. The executive order setting up the commission states that the senior U.S. security officials shall make sure that procedures are in place that “protect against unauthorized disclosure of information.”

The commission’s findings are due by March. Mr. Kropf said the full commission is scheduled to meet this week as part of its inquiry.

Last month, the commission held three days of meetings at its Arlington offices. Among those who testified during the hearings were Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

The meetings are closed because of the classified information discussed, according to a statement issued by the panel.

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