Lenny Savino reports for the Tampa Tribune in an article titled, “Probe of War Plan Leak Widens.” Excerpt:
MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE – The investigation into a leak to The New York Times of an Iraqi invasion plan drafted by U.S. Central Command here is far larger than originally believed and is being conducted like an espionage probe, officials said Wednesday.
OSI originally said it had 15 agents pursuing the war plan leak. But Maj. Mike Richmond, an OSI spokesman, said that number has grown to 30.
Shari Wagner, a retired OSI investigator based at MacDill in the 1990s, said when she was assigned to similar cases that had no suspect, the agency used a series of “investigative steps” to zero in on suspects.
The steps are a process of elimination through which people with access to the information in question would be interviewed several times, Wagner said.
“Let’s say you’ve got 32 people in an office,” Wagner said. “You interview each one and ask them preselected questions, generic questions like, `What do you think would happen to the individual that committed this crime?’ ”
The interviews are designed in part to produce vital information about such things as how a given crime might have been committed, Wagner said.
For example, asking someone how classified material might have been removed from a secure area might supply agents with real scenarios that in turn could be used to find a culprit.
“They’ll know more about their workplace where the crime was committed than you’ll ever know,” Wagner said. “Their procedures may be different than in other offices. It’s the human factor.”
After each round of interviews, investigators grade each interviewee’s responses for “guilt indicators.”
Polygraphs Could Be Given
When the number of suspects is reduced to two or three, Wagner said, each might be asked to take a polygraph before a final interview. Psychological profiles might be prepared on suspects as well, Richmond said.
Richmond acknowledged that polygraphs are a “tool available to us that we will use when and where it is appropriate, and only with the consent of the person being interviewed.”
Some current and former federal agents say voluntary polygraphs are intimidating and have never identified a U.S. spy or leak.
“I think the fact that the polygraph is voluntary is a little disingenuous,” said Mark Mullah [sic, correct: Mallah], a former FBI agent in New York. “If you don’t volunteer, there are adverse consequences.”
Mullah learned that taking the test could have adverse consequences, too.
In 1994, after CIA agent Aldrich Ames was arrested for spying for the Soviets, the FBI decided to give polygraphs to its own agents to see if any had been compromised.
Mullah was told he failed his test – that he had lied about having had contact with Israel, he said. Mullah insisted he was telling the truth.
There was a two-year investigation, during which Mullah was reassigned. Finally he was cleared. Disgusted with his ordeal, he resigned to practice law in California.
During his nine years in the FBI, Mullah said he witnessed two leak investigations. They have a chilling effect, he said.
“My supervisor at the time said this is why it’s better not to know too much,” Mullah said. “Then you get snared into these investigations.”