Former CIA director faces increased scrutiny

Saturday, September 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON – John Deutch, who has admitted mishandling classified information while serving as director of the CIA, is now the subject of an investigation into whether he committed similar security violations when he was a top Defense Department official, according to confidential documents and officials familiar with the case.

Mr. Deutch allegedly used unsecured computers at home and his America Online account to access classified defense information in the early to mid-1990s, according to the documents, compiled as part of a Defense Department investigation. The alleged violations occurred before and after Mr. Deutch issued a February 1995 memo reminding department employees that only "properly reviewed and cleared" information should be placed on computer systems accessible to the public.

"We find his conduct in this regard particularly egregious in light of existing [Department of Defense] policy directives addressing the safeguarding of classified information," an internal Defense Department memo said. Moreover, Mr. Deutch, while serving as deputy secretary of defense, "declined departmental requests that he allow security systems to be installed in his residence," the memo said.

"The evidence we obtained clearly establishes that [Mr. Deutch] failed to follow even the most basic security precautions," the memo added.

Mr. Deutch's attorney, Terrence O'Donnell, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a member of the Judiciary Committee, confirmed that the investigation of Mr. Deutch had been widened, and he challenged the Justice Department to look carefully at whether Mr. Deutch repeatedly endangered national security.

"This is now a pattern," Mr. Grassley said. "Evidently, Mr. Deutch is a congenital downloader of classified information. It will be interesting to see how the Justice Department deals with this case, especially in light of the Wen Ho Lee case." He was referring to the fired Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who was jailed for months on charges he mishandled classified data. Dr. Lee was freed this week after the government's case largely fell apart. He pleaded guilty to one of 59 counts on which he was indicted.

Paul Coffey, a retired Justice Department prosecutor tapped by Attorney General Janet Reno this year to review the Deutch case, has been briefed on the latest allegations and has expanded his investigation to include Mr. Deutch's years at the Pentagon, sources said.

There is no evidence that computer hackers or spies obtained classified information as a result of Mr. Deutch's actions. It is not clear from the documents precisely what kinds of information Mr. Deutch was working with. But among the computer files were his daily journal, which included information on the military operations for which he was responsible.

Successful career

Mr. Deutch served as defense undersecretary for acquisitions and technology from April 1993 to March 1994, when he became deputy defense secretary. He held that job until he was appointed CIA director in 1995.

Two days after he retired from the CIA in December 1996, agency computer experts discovered classified information stored on government computers at Mr. Deutch's home. After a series of investigations, Mr. Deutch admitted the security breach, apologized for violating CIA policy and was stripped of his security clearances.

Initially, the Justice Department decided not to prosecute Mr. Deutch. But this year, Attorney General Janet Reno decided to review the matter after criticism that Mr. Deutch had received much more favorable treatment than Dr. Lee.

Mr. Coffey has told Justice Department officials that he believes charges should be brought against Mr. Deutch for improperly handling classified documents on unsecured computers linked to the Internet, sources said.

Mr. Coffey's recommendation has not made its way from the Criminal Division to Ms. Reno, who will make the decision on how to handle the case, sources said.

Generally, cases similar to Mr. Deutch's have not led to criminal charges but have been handled through administrative sanctions. Ms. Reno recently declined to comment specifically on Mr. Deutch's case.

But her senior advisers have expressed concern about the appearance of a double standard when the Deutch case is compared with Dr. Lee's. The scientist, who downloaded nuclear data to unsecured computers and portable tapes, was jailed for months in conditions close to solitary confinement. When Dr. Lee entered his plea this week, he received an apology from a federal judge , who said the Justice Department's handling of the case had "embarrassed our entire nation."

Missing disks

Mr. Deutch developed regular work habits at the Defense Department and the CIA that led him to use a variety of unsecured computers at home while carrying computer memory cards and disks in his shirt pocket, government documents show.

One unanswered question is the whereabouts of some floppy disks he used to store classified military and intelligence data until he determined he needed more memory space and transferred the information to larger personal computer memory cards.

A probe by the CIA inspector general determined that Mr. Deutch had four of these cards, containing nearly 100,000 pages of information, including his journal.

Mr. Deutch used government-owned Macintosh computers at his home in Bethesda, Md., while serving in the high-level Defense Department posts, and several of those recovered by investigators contained a "significant amount" of military information, according to the documents.

"Several witnesses told us that none of the computers ... were designated to store classified data," an internal Defense Department memo said.

Mr. Deutch and his family used government-owned computers at his home to access his America Online account, according to government documents.

Mr. Deutch acknowledged to investigators that before becoming CIA director, he was aware of the principle requiring physical separation of classified and unclassified computers. However, Mr. Deutch said, he believed that when he deleted a document, the information was no longer recoverable and that his general practice was to copy documents onto floppy disks and delete the initial file.

But computer experts told investigators that each time Mr. Deutch updated his journal, his computer automatically created a temporary file that was stored on the computer's hard drive and would have been available to hackers when he accessed the Internet via America Online.

Some of the computers that Mr. Deutch used were given away or sold by the Defense Department as surplus property and ended up at such places as a scrap metal dealer in Baltimore and a university in Florida.