“Most FBI Agents Pass Lie Detector Tests”

Kansas City Star correspondent Kevin Murphy reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – All but a few of 700 FBI agents and employees passed lie detector tests as part of an internal security overhaul at the bureau, Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.

Mueller outlined for reporters the FBI’s broad plan for preventing security lapses, such as those that allowed agent Robert Hanssen to spy for the Soviet Union for 15 years.

Mueller said security was a “substantially elevated priority” at the FBI. A special review of FBI security by former FBI and CIA Director William Webster is expected to be released within a few days.

Polygraph tests were given to about 700 agents and others with access to the most highly classified information. Less than 1 percent, fewer than seven persons, failed the tests on a narrow set of subjects, Mueller said.

“We are heartened that less than 1 percent of the 700 tests raise issues that require further investigation,” Mueller said.

He would not comment on the status of those employees while they were being investigated further.

Polygraph tests are being planned for hundreds of other key employees. The bureau also is considering giving random, unannounced tests to other agents and employees, officials said.

“While nobody likes taking a polygraph — I didn’t particularly enjoy taking a polygraph — we all understand the necessity if it’s going to expose a Hanssen down the road or be a deterrent to another Hanssen,” Mueller said.

Nancy Savage, president of the FBI Agents Association, said agents did not object to random polygraph tests, which she compared to random urine tests they take for drugs. All agents take polygraph tests before being hired.

Unlike drug tests, lie detector “tests” have no scientific basis and are likely to falsely implicate the innocent while the guilty go undetected. FBI Agents Association president Nancy Savage should know better.

“FBI Security Reform Sees More Use of Polygraphs”

Los Angeles Times staff writers Eric Lichtblau and Richard A Serrano report. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON — FBI officials said Wednesday that thousands of employees may be subjected to polygraph tests in an effort to plug holes in security–holes so glaring that even convicted spy Robert Philip Hanssen now says he should have been caught years earlier.

Catching in-house spies and guarding national security interests were “not a priority” at the bureau in the past, FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged to reporters. “Any employee should recognize in the wake of Hanssen that we have to emphasize security more than we have.”

Mueller’s stark assessment of the FBI’s failings comes days before a high-level commission is expected to deliver an even harsher critique of why the bureau failed for more than two decades to realize that it had a spy among its ranks.

The Webster Commission, headed by former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster, is expected to release its much-awaited report on the Hanssen debacle later this week, probably Friday.

One key recommendation from the Webster Commission is expected to center on the expanded use of polygraphs for employees who have access to sensitive information.

The FBI, which for years resisted giving its employees routine polygraph tests, agreed last year in the wake of the Hanssen controversy to begin polygraphs for a small group of about 700 employees who work in intelligence operations.

That trial run has worked well, Senser said, with a passing rate of 99% for those tested. Those few employees whose tests came back “indeterminate” are being subjected to closer scrutiny and follow-up reviews, but no disciplinary action has been taken against anyone, he said.

Buoyed by the success of the test run, the FBI now is moving ahead with a tentative plan to significantly expand the pool of employees who would be subject to the tests. Although no final decision has been made, Senser said it likely will include “an additional few thousand” employees who will undergo questioning about unauthorized foreign contacts and the like.

Mueller said he wants to be careful not to subject agents to unnecessary testing and risk harming morale in the process. “Nobody likes taking a polygraph. I didn’t particularly enjoy taking a polygraph.”

But many agents seem to have grudgingly accepted that as the next big step in security.

“We’ve known this was coming,” said one senior agent who asked not to be identified. “I don’t get the feeling it’s generating a lot of heartburn. Any protests would probably fall on deaf ears anyway because, in light of Hanssen, it’s hard to make these same self-righteous kinds of objections and say, ‘What is it about me that you don’t trust?'”

“Seven F.B.I. Employees Fail Polygraph Tests for Security”

New York Times correspondent David Johnson reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON, April 3 – About seven F.B.I. employees with access to highly classified information have been unable to pass polygraph examinations administered as part of the bureau’s stepped-up security program after the arrest last year of a senior agent as a Russian spy, F.B.I. officials said today.

At a meeting with reporters at Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters, Robert S. Mueller III, the director, said that about 700 bureau employees had been given polygraph exams in the aftermath of the arrest of Robert P. Hanssen, who has pleaded guilty to spying for Moscow.

Mr. Mueller said, “We are heartened that less than 1 percent of the 700 raised issues that require further investigation.”

“FBI Investigates Employees Who Fail Polygraph Test”

Reuters correspondent James Vicini reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As many as seven FBI employees with access to highly classified information face more investigation after taking polygraph tests given to tighten security following the discovery of a Russian spy within the FBI, officials said on Wednesday.

“We have identified up to 700 persons who were responsible for looking at highly classified information and have run a polygraph program that I believe has been successful in that we have some assurance on all but one percent, and the others we are looking at,” FBI Director Robert Mueller told reporters.

“We are heartened that less than 1 percent of the 700 raised issues that require further investigation,” he said, days before the release of a special commission’s report on how to improve security after the Robert Hanssen spy case.

Mueller acknowledged that security had not been a “principal priority” at the FBI, but added, “We’ve moved to address that.”

One of the steps adopted after the Hanssen spy case, which badly damaged the FBI’s reputation, has been expanded use of polygraph tests for current FBI employees.

Hanssen, a 25-year FBI agent and counter-intelligence expert, pleaded guilty to spying for Moscow and is awaiting sentencing next month. His lawyer has said Hanssen began spying in 1979, just three years after he became a special agent.

FBI Assistant Director Kenneth Senser said polygraph tests have been given to about 700 employees since July. The “overwhelming majority” successfully completed the test.

Senser, a career CIA official now in charge of the FBI’s security division, said the 1 percent, whose responses during the test triggered concern, still were being “worked with.”

THOUSANDS MAY FACE POLYGRAPH TEST

Senser said the next step under consideration would be a “limited expansion” of the polygraph tests, adding a “few thousand” to those who must be tested.

“FBI Chief Pledges More Polygraphs”

Associated Press writer Ted Bridis reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – FBI Director Robert Mueller on Wednesday promised broader use of lie detectors and a closer check of employee financial records to help deter or catch spies within America’s elite law enforcement agency.

Mueller acknowledged delicate issues of privacy and trust. But he said FBI employees must realize that security needs to be improved after last year’s arrest of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who has pleaded guilty to selling secrets to Moscow for nearly two decades.

“Every employee should recognize that in the wake of Hanssen, we have to emphasize security more than we have,” Mueller told reporters during a wide-ranging interview at FBI headquarters. “I will say, anybody who looks at our organization realizes that security was not a priority. We’ve moved to address that.”

Mueller’s remarks precede the release of a study on security within the FBI by a commission led by former Director William H. Webster. The report is expected to harshly criticize lax security inside the agency.

The seven-person commission – some of whose members met with Hanssen over four days – expects to deliver its report to Attorney General John Ashcroft as early as Thursday or Friday. Webster is to testify next week about the findings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mueller and his new chief for internal security, Kenneth H. Senser of the CIA, said the FBI will soon administer new lie-detector tests to 1,000 more employees. Earlier results of 700 found that fewer than 10 raised red flags, such as possible deception, that warranted additional scrutiny. Mueller declined to discuss whether those who flunked were still working with top-secret documents.

Both Mueller and Senser said they are studying the best way to broaden use of polygraphs across the FBI’s roughly 28,000 employees but are focusing for now on testing agents and others with access to the most sensitive secrets. Mueller pledged that the FBI is “not going to polygraph people indiscriminately across the bureau.”

“Nobody likes taking a polygraph,” he said. “I didn’t particularly enjoy taking a polygraph.”

Robert S. Mueller III on FBI Polygraph Policy

At the first day of his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, FBI Director designate Robert S. Mueller III voiced his support for continued polygraph screening of senior FBI officials:

Sen. Hatch: …We understand that the FBI is now requiring polygraphs for managers handling national security matters. Are you willing to continue that uh, that approach?

Mueller: Yes.

Sen Hatch: And would you be willing to take a polygraph yourself if that, if that were the case?

Mueller: Yes. Indeed, I uh, it is my belief you don’t — this may be my training from the Marine Corps — but you don’t ask people to do that which you’re unwilling to do yourself. I have already taken that polygraph.

Sen. Hatch: The only reason I ask that question is I thought you had, and I just think it’s…

Mueller: [laughter]

Sen. Hatch: important. In particular…how did you do?

[general laughter]

Mueller: I’m sitting here; that’s all I’ve got to say!

Sen. Hatch: I’m sorry, we just hope you had a good examiner, that’s all….

To discuss Mr. Mueller’s testimony, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread, Robert S. Mueller III on FBI Polygraph Policy.