“F.B.I. Never Gave Agent in Spy Case a Polygraph”

Eric Lichtblau reports for the New York Times. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON, April 10 – A former F.B.I. agent arrested on Wednesday in an espionage case had not been given a polygraph test in his nearly 30 years with the bureau, and lax oversight of his relationship with an informer now accused of being a Chinese double-agent appears to have violated numerous policies, bureau officials said today.

The officials added that the informer, Katrina Leung, a Los Angeles political fund-raiser who was paid $1.7 million by the F.B.I. for information on her native China over the last two decades, had not been asked to take a polygraph test since the 1980’s.

Ms. Leung and the former agent, James J. Smith, were arrested at their homes. Mr. Smith, was charged with gross negligence in his handling of national military documents. Ms. Leung, who officials said was Mr. Smith’s longtime lover, was charged with the unauthorized copying of national military information with the intent to injure the United States or benefit a foreign nation, in this case, China.

Historically, the F.B.I. has resisted the use of polygraph, or lie detector, tests for its employees, in part because many agents have viewed the procedure as a sign of distrust. In the mid-1990’s, the bureau began broadening its use of polygraph tests for employees with access to secret intelligence after the espionage arrest of a C.I.A. official, Aldrich H. Ames, and it significantly increased their use again after the 2001 arrest of an F.B.I agent, Robert P. Hanssen, on charges of spying for Moscow.

An F.B.I. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that because polygraph tests were not routinely used in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it appeared that Mr. Smith had never been asked to take one, while Ms. Leung had not taken one for many years.

“We just didn’t really do it much back then,” the official said. “It wasn’t a focus.”

Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, has requested internal reviews to determine what went wrong.

Officials outside the F.B.I. questioned whether more aggressive use of polygraph tests by the bureau might have raised questions much earlier about whether Mr. Smith and Ms. Leung were having an affair and whether she was improperly gaining access to secret intelligence that could do damage to American national security interests in the hands of the Chinese.

For discussion of the Smith-Leung case, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread, Ex-FBI Agent and Informant Accused in Spy Case.

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