“Lawmakers Split on Taking FBI Lie Tests”

Boston Globe staff writer Robert Schlesinger reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – The mystery of who leaked classified intelligence intercepted Sept. 10 to the media is splitting members of Congress into two camps: Those who are ready and willing to take a polygraph test and those who are not.

At least five current or former members of the House and Senate intelligence committees have said they are willing to take the test.

At issue is the FBI’s investigation – requested by members of Congress – into the source of news reports that quoted suspected terrorists recorded on Sept. 10 talking about the following day being ”zero hour,” and saying ”the match is about to begin.”

FBI agents have interviewed most of the 37 House and Senate members on the joint committee investigating the performance of the intelligence community – including the FBI – before the Sept. 11 attacks. They have in some cases raised the possibility of lie-detector tests and, in turn, caused a stir in Congress.

Those who have agreed to take the test see the dissemination of classified information as a danger to the democratic system because it compromises operations and risks lives.

”I have been interviewed by the FBI and will cooperate with any requests they may have,” said Representative Richard M. Burr, a North Carolina Republican who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. ”The objective is to stop the leaks. Anything we can do to aid in accomplishing this is in the interest of the American people.”

Senator John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who served on the Intelligence Committee from 1996 to 2000, said he would support the FBI investigation and would have submitted to a lie-detector test if asked. ”When I was on the committee, I was happy to submit to any test,” he said. ”This is the highest level of trust, and when somebody breaches it, I have no patience with it. … I’m glad the FBI is investigating, and I hope they find out who did it. This is unpatriotic.”

But other current and former members of the House and Senate intelligence committees say they would not submit and are concerned about the potentially corrosive effect on separation of powers of an FBI investigation of Congress.

”I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Justice Department to be conducting lie-detector tests on Intelligence Committee members,” said Representative Charles Bass, a Republican of New Hampshire and former member of the House Intelligence Committee. ”If the system reaches a point where members of Congress can’t be trusted to be patriotic Americans, I just don’t know where we go as a country.”

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