“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.”

“Congress, FBI Clash on Lie Test”

Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau chief Lynn Sweet reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON–The FBI is trying to find out whether lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees have been leaking classified information about the Sept. 11 attacks, even asking them if they would be willing to take lie detector tests.

But some of the lawmakers are balking at submitting to a polygraph.

”The Senate and, I assume, the House, has always investigated their own,” Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Associated Press.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the intelligence panel, was interviewed by the FBI for about 20 minutes in a special room at the Capitol–a super secure soundproof chamber swept for electronic listening devices.

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), on the House intelligence panel, also was quizzed for about 30 minutes.

Durbin, in Springfield on Friday, did not want to comment on the leak probe, said Joe Shoemaker, his press secretary. He said Durbin did not tell him about the contents of the FBI interview because “it is all classified.”

“The senator is certainly not going to comment on a leak investigation by leaking,” Shoemaker said.

LaHood “can’t say a whole lot about it,” said Tim Butler, his press secretary.

The House and Senate committee members were not asked to take a polygraph exam; the FBI asked if they would be willing to submit to one if requested.

Shoemaker said he did not know what Durbin told the FBI. Butler said LaHood would be willing to take the test if the committee members, in a vote, decided that was the best course to take. That way, no one would be singled out.

There is always a question about the reliability of polygraphs, and the results of such tests are not admissible in court.

“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.

“Leak Probe: FBI Wants Polygraphs for Lawmakers”

The Associated Press reports in this article carried on the CNN.com website:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Several members of the House and Senate intelligence committees have been asked by the FBI to take lie-detector tests as part of an investigation into the leak of documents related to the September 11 attacks, a law enforcement official said.

The official emphasized that the polygraph exams “are always voluntary.”

“Lie-detector tests are a standard element of FBI investigations and they are meant to eliminate people from suspicion,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity late Thursday.

The Washington Post reported in Friday editions that nearly all 37 members of the intelligence committees have been questioned and many have been asked to take polygraphs.

Several lawmakers have refused to take the test, citing the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government, along with the unreliability of the exams, the newspaper said.

“F.B.I. Inquiry on 9/11 Leak Upsets Lawmakers on Committees”

Christopher Marquis reports for the New York Times. This short article is cited here in full:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — The F.B.I. has interviewed dozens of members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and asked them to submit to lie detector tests as part of an effort to learn who leaked classified material to reporters in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congressional officials said today.

But a number of the lawmakers on the committees have refused to take the polygraph tests and have voiced uneasiness over the constitutional precedent of being investigated by the agency they oversee, the officials said.

Ranit Schmelzer, a spokeswoman for Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the majority leader, said the inquiry had provoked “grave concerns about the constitutional separation of powers issues raised by having one branch of government administering a polygraph to employees of another branch.”

Still, Ms. Schmelzer said, the matter “is between the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Justice Department.”

The committee had asked that the F.B.I. conduct the investigation into accusations of leaks of secret information by someone affiliated with the committee and, Ms. Schmelzer said, it was up to the bureau and the committee officials to develop appropriate guidelines.

Lawmakers’ complaints about the F.B.I. inquiry were first reported in the Friday issue of The Washington Post, which said nearly all 37 members of the two committees had been interviewed, as well as 60 Congressional staff members and officials at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency.

The F.B.I. inquiry was requested by the chairmen of the intelligence committees, Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, and Representative Porter J. Goss, Republican of Florida, after news organizations reported on Arabic conversations that had been intercepted by the National Security Agency a day before the attacks.

That disclosure embarrassed the officials at the security agency, which failed to translate conversations that anticipated the attacks until Sept. 12. The agency intercepts reportedly included the remark: “Tomorrow is zero hour.”

“FBI’s Sept. 11 Leak Probe Irks Senators”

John Bresnahan reports for Roll Call. Excerpt:

FBI agents began fanning out on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, questioning Senators serving on the Intelligence Committee as part of an unprecedented effort to find out who leaked classified information from the Congressional probe of intelligence failures prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

FBI officials are also asking Hill staffers caught up in the investigation to submit to polygraph examinations, according to Congressional sources.

FBI agents are asking the staffers if they would undergo polygraphs, although the number of staffers who have actually been tested so far cannot be determined. No similar requests have been made of lawmakers who serve on the panels.

FBI May Polygraph Congressional Staff in Leaks Probe

Los Angeles Times staff writers Paul Richter and Greg Miller report in an article titled, “White House Moves to Tighten Loose Lips, Stop Leaks to Media.” Excerpt:

WASHINGTON –The Bush administration, until now considered one of the most effective ever at controlling information, is suddenly struggling to plug leaks that threaten political embarrassment and, officials say, harm to national security.

FBI investigators recently were interrogating the staff of a congressional panel probing intelligence failures of Sept. 11, and they may take the unprecedented step of using polygraph exams.

After a public display of anger by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pentagon officials have begun an inquiry into who gave newspapers draft war plans for a possible attack on Iraq. And the State Department took the highly unusual step recently of detaining a reporter at its Foggy Bottom headquarters in an effort to find out who leaked a classified diplomatic cable that contained embarrassing information about the department’s visa program.

Top administration officials have said from the beginning of President Bush’s term that they are serious about enforcing the laws that make it a crime to leak classified documents. But not until now has it become fully apparent how vigorous they are willing to be.

The cases also demonstrate the limits on how tightly any administration can control information. Though Bush’s team is known for keeping the lid on–even Cabinet members were unaware of Bush’s plan to create a Department of Homeland Security–the president’s team has not been able to control everyone in the executive branch or in Congress.

And questions are beginning to arise about the wisdom of even trying to root out the sources of leaks.

William Kristol, who was chief of staff to former Vice President Dan Quayle, said the government should only mobilize against leaks that genuinely threaten lives and national security.

“There’s not much evidence that any of the leaks here are of that character,” said Kristol, now editor of the Weekly Standard magazine.

The Capitol Hill investigation was launched last month after news organizations, citing congressional sources, disclosed contents of a classified briefing by the ultra-secret National Security Agency.

In closed-door testimony, NSA officials reportedly acknowledged that the agency had intercepted Al Qaeda messages Sept. 10 saying “tomorrow is zero day” and “the match begins tomorrow,” but had not translated the messages from Arabic until Sept. 12. Within hours of the officials’ testimony, those messages were being reported on television and on the Internet.

Angered by the disclosure, Vice President Dick Cheney called the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees, demanding a crackdown. The lawmakers, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), responded by sending a letter to Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft inviting an inquiry.

Among the questions staff members faced was whether they would be willing to submit to polygraph tests, according to one aide.

Polygraphs for Congressmen in Leak Probe?

In an article titled, “AG Asked to Hunt for Sept. 11 Leaks,” the Associated Press reports that the House and Senate intelligence committees have asked the U.S. Attorney General to investigate a press leak regarding NSA intercepts of Al Qaeda communications. The article notes: “Asked if lawmakers would submit to FBI interviews and polygraphs, [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Porter] Goss said they ‘will cooperate with the FBI in any way possible.'”

“Bush Campaign Wants Lie Tests”

Vincent Morris and Deborah Owen of the New York Post report that “George W. Bush staffers offered to take lie-detector tests yesterday as they pressed the FBI to solve the mystery of whether a mole gave a debate prep video to rival Al Gore’s camp.”

Mr. Bush’s staffers need to learn about the lie behind the lie detector.

DoD Plans to Expand Reliance on Polygraphy

In his electronic newsletter, Secrecy News, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy reports on Department of Defense plans to expand reliance on polygraphy. DoD’s FY 1999 polygraph report states:

In an effort to eliminate or reduce the number of unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the media, we plan to implement a new policy. As a condition for access to Top Secret, SCI or higher information, DoD military, civilian personnel and contractor employees will sign a form certifying that they are willing to undergo a specific issue polygraph examination if classified information they had access to has been leaked. We believe this will serve as a deterrent to individuals who may be considering leaking classified information.

In 1982, a polygraph dragnet for the source of a leak in the 30-member Defense Resources Board failed to find the leaker, but did lead to John Tillson, director of manpower management at the Pentagon being falsely accused. He was exonerated only when reporter George Wilson of the Washington Post assured Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger that Tillson was not the leaker. Polygraph hunts for leakers also led to Marine colonel Robert McFarlane (1982) and Assistant Undersecretary of Defense Michael Pillsbury (1986) being falsely accused. (See D.T. Lykken’s A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector, pp. 216-18) If you have further information about DoD’s planned expansion of polygraphy, please contact Antipolygraph.org.