Handling of Deutch Case Under Probe

Thursday, October 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon's chief internal watchdog is investigating whether a former deputy defense secretary and other senior officials improperly stopped a review that could have led to ex-CIA Director John Deutch being denied access to secret military information.

Acting Inspector General Donald Mancuso said Wednesday the investigation, started within the past few weeks, was triggered by events in August and September 1999 that halted the Defense Department review.

Deutch's access to classified military material remained in force until February 2000 even though the CIA had pulled Deutch's spy agency security clearances in August 1999. The CIA acted because of Deutch's processing of classified material on vulnerable, unsecure computers.

An internal Pentagon memo states John Hamre, a former deputy secretary, was ``involved'' in the decision to stop the August 1999 Pentagon inquiry, and Mancuso's investigation is designed to determine whether Hamre and other senior officials acted properly.

Deutch voluntarily surrendered his Pentagon clearances in February after defense officials decided to invalidate them.

Hamre, who succeeded Deutch as deputy secretary of defense, said in an interview with The Associated Press this week that he never tried to stop the inquiry or revocation of Deutch's security clearances, and told subordinates to cooperate with CIA.

``I never did instruct anyone not to proceed,'' said Hamre, who left the Pentagon earlier this year and now heads a foreign policy research organization, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The CIA concluded that Deutch stored classified documents on unsecured computers and kept a private journal with national secrets on disks and computer storage cards he sometimes carried in his shirt pocket. Some of the disks remain unaccounted for, and Deutch has apologized for his actions.

Justice Department prosecutors are investigating whether any criminal charges are warranted.

Government officials familiar with Senate inquiries into the Deutch matter say two Pentagon inspector general officials have told Senate committees they recommended in February that Mancuso review the conduct of Hamre and other senior officials in the Deutch matter.

Mancuso said Wednesday he was made aware in February ``of allegations concerning actions taken or not taken by the department in August 1999 concerning Dr. Deutch's security clearances.''

He declined to confirm whether the investigators specifically cited Hamre, but said their information ``clearly related to individuals at the senior levels of the Defense Department,'' a description that would include Hamre.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, whose staff has been interviewing current and former Pentagon officials on their handling of the Deutch matter, wrote Mancuso last week that he understood ``Dr. John Hamre may be the subject'' of the investigation.

Grassley, who opposes Mancuso's nomination as permanent inspector general, said the investigation would be a conflict of interest because Mancuso has a ``close association with Dr. Hamre'' that ``may undermine the public's confidence in the results.''

Mancuso denied a conflict. ``There are no issues involving any senior officials in this matter that would cause any concern as to appropriateness of this office to conduct a fair and independent investigation,'' he said.

Hamre also denied a conflict, suggesting Grassley was simply trying to thwart Mancuso's nomination. He said he has no personal ties to Mancuso except that he has supported the acting inspector general's nomination.

Questions about Hamre's role in the Deutch investigation arose in a Feb. 15, internal memo by David Crane, the inspector general's expert on intelligence matters.

Crane's memo describes how a Pentagon security official made a ``routine request'' for the CIA's investigative file on Deutch in August 1999 ``to determine whether there needs to be an emergency suspension'' of Deutch's Pentagon security clearance.

That official was told on Sept. 12, 1999, not to seek Deutch's CIA file, which stopped the review, the memo says, adding that the official was ``told Dr. Hamre is involved in this decision.''

Hamre disputed that account, saying he told Pentagon officials to ``proceed with regular order.'' He said that meant the Defense Department would cooperate with the CIA's investigation of Deutch and consider any material passed on by the spy agency ``that would trigger an investigation.''