“FBI Orders Polygraphs of 500 Employees in Key Security Posts”

Knight Ridder Washington bureau correspondent Lenny Savino reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – The FBI has responded to the Robert Hanssen spy case by quietly ordering polygraphs of 500 FBI employees in key national security positions.

“Before this only those with access to very sensitive cases were required to take polygraphs,” FBI spokesman Bill Carter said Thursday. “This expands the universe of people who will be subjected to the exams.”

Hanssen, a 27-year FBI agent, was charged Feb. 18 with spying for Moscow for nearly 15 years. FBI officials have acknowledged that he was never polygraphed. After Hanssen’s arrest, FBI Director Louis Freeh said he expected to widen the use of polygraphs beyond the screening of applicants, a policy he adopted in 1994.

Freeh expanded the use of polygraphs last week and ordered that they begin immediately, though there was no public announcement of the policy change.

Among those to be tested are 150 top managers in the FBI’s Senior Executive Service, plus agents and clerks with access to classified national security computers and documents. Anyone who has passed a department polygraph within the last five years will be exempted from this initial round of exams.

Carter was unsure whether Freeh would personally be tested. Freeh was traveling and could not be reached.

There are 11,334 special agents in the FBI, and 15,949 support staff. Former FBI Director William Webster, who is investigating the FBI’s failure to detect Hanssen’s spying sooner, is expected to recommend regular polygraph tests in his report next month.

Employees will be not be asked lifestyle questions, like whether they’ve used drugs, Carter said, but only about contact with foreign intelligence officers. Indications of deception will trigger a thorough investigation.

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