“Lie Detector Test an Issue in Spy Case”

Los Angeles Times staff writers Greg Krikorian and Scott Glover report. Excerpt:

Years before Katrina Leung’s arrest for allegedly obtaining secret documents for China, officials at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., suggested that she submit to a polygraph test because of questions about her reliability, according to federal law enforcement officials.

But Leung, who allegedly worked for China for decades while the FBI thought she was spying for the United States, never took the test in the mid-1990s.

One former Justice Department official involved in the Leung case said she refused to take the test. Other sources close to the investigation say that although it is certain she did not take a test, the reason is unclear. The sources said they could find no written record of any refusal by Leung.

“All we know is that she didn’t take it,” said one official.

Janet I. Levine, one of Leung’s lawyers, said her client had never refused an order to take a polygraph test. “Katrina Leung did as she was directed, and was at all times a loyal American,” Levine wrote in a prepared statement.

In a telephone interview, Levine said she knew neither whether the topic of a polygraph had been broached on a less formal basis nor whether Leung may have said she preferred not to take the exam.

Leung was arrested April 9 with her longtime handler, former FBI agent James J. Smith. Smith’s attorney, Brian Sun, said that his client never received a directive from FBI headquarters in the mid-1990s to have Leung take a polygraph.

It was unclear whether a lie detector test could have helped the FBI uncover Leung’s alleged treachery years before May 2000, when the bureau launched an investigation into her and Smith, her longtime FBI contact and alleged lover.

Sources close to the investigation say that Leung, a highly regarded informant for nearly two decades, passed two lie detector tests in the 1980s. The suggestion that she be given another exam in the mid-1990s was prompted by “inconsistencies” in some of her reports to the FBI, but it was never pressed by headquarters, according to one official.

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