CIA Inspector General Polygraphed

In “Moves Signal Tighter Secrecy Within C.I.A.,” New York Times reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti write that CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson is among the employees polygraphed in the Agency’s ongoing leak hunt. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON, April 23 — The crackdown on leaks at the Central Intelligence Agency that led to the dismissal of a veteran intelligence officer last week included a highly unusual polygraph examination for the agency’s independent watchdog, Inspector General John L. Helgerson, intelligence officials with knowledge of the investigation said Sunday.

The special polygraphs, which have been given to dozens of employees since January, are part of a broader effort by Porter J. Goss, the director of the C.I.A., to re-emphasize a culture of secrecy that has included a marked tightening of the review process for books and articles by former agency employees.

As the inspector general, Mr. Helgerson was the supervisor of Mary O. McCarthy, who was fired Thursday after admitting she had leaked classified information to reporters about secret C.I.A. detention centers and other subjects, agency officials said.

Mr. Goss and the C.I.A.’s deputy director, Vice Adm. Albert M. Calland III, voluntarily submitted to polygraph tests during the leak investigation to show they were willing to experience the same scrutiny they were asking other employees to undergo, agency officials said. Mr. Helgerson likewise submitted to the lie-detector test, they said.

But Mr. Helgerson’s status as the independent inspector general — a post to which he was appointed by the president and from which only the president can remove him — makes his submission to a polygraph even more unusual.

L. Britt Snider, who served as inspector general from 1998 to 2001, said in an interview on Sunday night that he had not been given a polygraph in that position, though he said he was given an initial polygraph when he arrived at the agency in 1997 as special counsel to the director.

“I’ve never heard of it, and it’s certainly unusual,” Mr. Snider said. He called it “awkward” for the inspector general to be, in effect, investigated by the agency he ordinarily investigates.

But Mr. Snider and another former senior intelligence official said that it would not be improper if Mr. Helgerson had volunteered for the polygraph to set an example for others.

Reached by telephone on Sunday, Mr. Helgerson declined to comment and referred a reporter to a C.I.A. spokesman, who said he could not comment on any aspect of the leak investigation.

Further details about the inspector general’s polygraph test could not be determined.

Mr. Goss has repeatedly expressed unhappiness with what he sees as the laxity of C.I.A. employees and retirees in discussing agency matters. He has taken up the cause of tightening information controls across the board, partly in response to calls from the White House, the Congressional intelligence committees and the presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Helgerson’s office, which investigates accusations of lapses in the ethics or performance of agency employees, has investigated some of the most serious controversies of recent years, including cases involving accusations of detainee abuse.

Since a 1989 change following the Iran-contra scandal, the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog has been confirmed by the Senate and has reported to the Congressional intelligence committees as well as to the C.I.A. director, a shift intended to assure the position’s independence.

Among the subjects handled by Mr. Helgerson’s office was a report completed last year that faulted senior C.I.A. officials for lapses in the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But Mr. Goss kept the report classified and did not punish any of those named.

Former officials say the inspector general’s office has also referred more than half a dozen cases of detainee abuse to the Department of Justice, but officials there have taken no action, except for a pending prosecution of one agency contract employee charged with beating an Afghan prisoner who later died.

The “single-issue” polygraphs, which are distinct from the routine polygraphs given to agency employees at least every five years, have been conducted by the C.I.A. Security Center but with close supervision from Mr. Goss’s office, one official said. Like other current and former intelligence officials, he was granted anonymity to discuss classified events at the agency without fear of retribution.

It should be noted that CIA director Porter Goss and deputy director VADM Albert M. Calland III’s “volunteering” to be polygraphed to “show they were willing to experience the same scrutiny they were asking other employees to undergo” was political theater. They both ran zero risk of failing the polygraph. No CIA polygrapher would be so stupid as to flunk the director or deputy director. Those who polygraphed Goss and Calland would have known that it was their own jobs that were on the line.

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