“FBI Leak Probe Irks Lawmakers: Many Spurn Polygraph Requests on Issue of NSA’s 9/11 Intercept

Washington Post staff writer Dana Priest reports in this front page article. Excerpt:

FBI agents have questioned nearly all 37 members of the Senate and House intelligence committees and have asked many if they would be willing to submit to lie detector tests as part of a broad investigation into leaks of classified information related to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to officials involved in the inquiry.

Most of the lawmakers have told the FBI they would refuse a polygraph, citing the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government and the unreliability of the exam, those involved in the inquiry said.

Although the chairmen of the intelligence committees, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), asked the FBI to conduct the inquiry, its unprecedented scale has angered some lawmakers, according to people close to the investigation. The lawmakers are unhappy that the FBI, an agency they oversee, is investigating them.

In addition to committee members, FBI agents have questioned 60 congressional staff members and officials at the CIA, the Defense Department and the National Security Agency. They are trying to find the source of news stories that quoted Arabic communications making vague references to an impending attack on the United States, which were intercepted by the NSA on Sept. 10 but not translated until Sept. 12.

Ranit Schmelzer, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), said Daschle had “grave concerns about the congressional separation of powers issues raised by having one branch of government asking to polygraph employees of another branch.” But, she added in a statement, “this matter is between the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Justice Department. The intelligence committees asked the Justice Department to conduct this investigation and it is up to these parties to determine the appropriate guidance” for members regarding the polygraph.

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