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Senate hears of Deutch lapses

A panel asks why former CIA Director John Deutch kept sensitive documents on his PC and why he didn't have a security detail.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday asked former CIA Director John Deutch to explain why he stored memos to President Clinton, details of covert operations and other secrets on home computers that were used to access the Internet.

"This is strange behavior, very suspicious," said Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. "It's unprecedented, to my knowledge."

There is no evidence that Deutch's laxity compromised the secrets he kept on the CIA-owned computers in his home, but the case nevertheless has fueled concerns about possible national security breaches.

According to a Knight-Ridder Newspapers report, while Deutch was serving as a senior Defense Department official in the early 1990s, he failed a polygraph test about his handling of classified materials.

The Knight-Ridder report said Pentagon security officers were concerned because Deutch took highly classified material home with him, but his security clearances were not revoked or downgraded.

The Knight-Ridder report said that a classified CIA inspector general's report said agency security officers who inspected Deutch's computers as he was leaving the CIA in 1996 found about 75 documents totaling some 250 pages of containing highly classified material.

The report found that the computers also were used to send e-mail via America Online and that someone browsed pornographic and other Internet sites while Deutch was not at home, they said.

Finally, they also found that a former Soviet scientist living in Western Europe had sent an unsolicited e-mail to Deutch, who declined to respond.

CIA Director George Tenet, testifying this week before Senate committees, said that he could not be certain the materials on Deutch's computers had not been compromised but that there was no evidence they had been.

Experts said that although it would be extremely difficult, skilled operators could have stolen the contents of Deutch's computers while they were online.

"He was probably lucky, but he was careless," said Dorothy Denning, a computer security expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

Tenet stripped Deutch of his security clearances last August after the Justice Department declined to prosecute him on charges of violating national security laws. Deutch then publicly apologized for mishandling the classified materials on his computers.

But the Washington Post on Friday reported that Deutch still has a Pentagon security clearance that allows him to work on classified defense contracts. The clearance permits Deutch to serve as a paid consultant on Defense Department contracts with Raytheon Corp., SAIC Corp. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Deutch, now a professor at MIT, also sits on eight corporate boards.

William Duhnke, an Intelligence Committee spokesman, said the panel also wants to quiz Deutch about other deviations from security practices that the nation's top spy routinely follows, including his refusal to have CIA security officers posted in his house to protect him and classified materials.

Because of terrorist threats and other concerns, "the commonsense rule is you have a security detail," Knight-Ridder quoting a former senior intelligence official as saying.

The official noted that Mir Aimal Kasi, who shot dead two CIA employees in 1993 outside the agency's Langley, Va., headquarters, has admitted going there after failing to find the homes of then-CIA Director James Woolsey and his predecessor, Robert Gates, in order to kill them.

Questions also have been raised about the CIA's internal inquiry into Deutch's conduct. According to the Knight-Ridder report, an intelligence community official said the CIA inspector general's report found that former CIA Executive Director Nora Slatkin and general counsel Michael O'Neill may have impeded the probe.

Shelby, interviewed on CBS's Early Show Friday, said that was an issue his committee also would explore.

Tenet vigorously denied there was any effort to suppress the inquiry.

Senate Intelligence Committee spokesman Duhnke said CIA Inspector General Britt Snider will testify Tuesday before the Senate committee in closed session.

Deutch, he said, was invited to testify in private Wednesday about his home computer practices, but it was not known if he would agree.

Details of the inspector general's report that have leaked out this week have riveted fresh attention on the case and prompted comparisons to that of Wen Ho Lee.

The Chinese-American scientist is in jail awaiting trial on charges of mishandling nuclear weapons secrets, including classified data he copied from computers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory onto an unsecure computer.