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Investigation into Deutch Security Breach Impeded

By Kevin R. Lang

Institute Professor and former CIA director John M. Deutch ’61 is once again in hot water.

Some five months ago, the Central Intelligence Agency suspended Deutch’s security clearance after the CIA found that Deutch had used insecure personal computers to store thousands of classified documents, even after his tenure as director had ended.

Last week, a CIA report concluded that top officials impeded the Deutch investigation. Moreover, the Washington Post reported Saturday that Deutch still has clearance to work on classified defense contracts, despite the earlier violations and subsequent sanctions.

The clearance allows Deutch to consult on Defense Department contracts with companies including Raytheon Company, which makes defense electronics and aircraft.

Officials hindered investigation

The report found that a series of actions by the agency’s former executive director and general counsel “had the effect of delaying a prompt and thorough investigation of this matter.” The report states that current CIA director George J. Tenet did not “forcefully ensure” a thorough investigation.

The report does not accuse Tenet or his aides of illegal activity, but the CIA has established a panel to examine handling of the case.

The original investigation into Deutch’s actions was overseen by Michael O’Neill, the CIA’s general counsel at the time, and executive director Nora Slatkin. CIA security officers concluded that senior officials were protecting Deutch.

One security officer told the inspector general that the “investigation had been one in name only.” The report specifically cites O’Neill and Slatkin for impeding the investigation.

The New York Times reported that O’Neill believed he had acted properly. “I did not try to delay the investigation of Mr. Deutch,” O’Neill said.

Few details regarding Deutch and the ensuing classified report by the inspector general have been made public.

Deutch defends actions as secure

Shortly after Deutch’s clearances were revoked late last summer, he declined to comment further than his public statements to the CIA.

In his statement, Deutch said that he had used “CIA-issued computers that were not configured for classified work to compose classified documents ... Although I accept my responsibility for my mistake, I want to make it clear that I never considered the information to be at risk or never intended to violate security procedures.”

Although Deutch stepped down as head of the CIA in 1996, he has remained active in the Commission on Non-Proliferation and in advising Tenet. The suspension bars Deutch from information to which he previously had access in these roles.

At that time, the Pentagon also suspended Deutch’s security clearance from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the nation’s main military intelligence service. Deutch also lost clearance to serve as a member of the Defense Science Board, a high-level panel of scientists who advise the Defense Department on research projects.

But Deutch never lost his industrial security clearance, a Defense Department spokesman said last week in response to inquiries from the Post.

Returns to MIT after resignation

After Deutch left the CIA, he returned to MIT’s Department of Chemistry. When Deutch’s clearances were revoked, President Charles M. Vest said that sanctions against Deutch would “have absolutely no effect on Professor Deutch’s role at MIT.”

Officially, MIT did not respond or take action after hearing of the security clearance suspension. “The reported clearance suspension is not cause for any consideration, action or statement by MIT,” Vest said.

Deutch was sworn in as Director of Central Intelligence in May 1995 and resigned in December 1996. Deutch previously served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense and worked for the Department of Energy, as well as on many educational and government posts.

Deutch joined the MIT faculty in 1970. Deutch served as Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, Dean of Science, and Provost. He was named an Institute Professor in 1990.

Rima Arnaout contributed to the reporting of this story.