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Justice Dept. Revisits Deutch’s Mishandling of CIA Secrets

By Bob Drogin and Eric Lichtblau

The Justice Department is re-examining whether former CIA Director and Institute Professor John M. Deutch ’61 violated the law when he used insecure computers to create and store top-secret files on everything from covert operations to spy satellites in 1995 and 1996, officials said Thursday.

The reopening of the controversial case comes 10 months after Justice Department lawyers advised the CIA in writing that they would not prosecute Deutch for improper handling of classified material during his rocky 20-month tenure as America’s top intelligence official.

At her weekly news briefing, Attorney General Janet Reno said that the department’s criminal division is reviewing the case “to see what appropriate action should be addressed or whether there is any basis for it.”

She refused to say whether the inquiry would focus on Deutch or on allegations by some CIA staff members that Deutch’s chief aides deliberately had slowed -- or even obstructed -- the initial inquiry to try to protect the CIA director.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that he welcomed Reno’s review. “I’m amazed that they didn’t do it earlier and do it more diligently,” he said.

“I think all of this is baffling and very troubling,” Shelby said. “It certainly doesn’t help the morale at the CIA. Because people out there know, if they did something like this, they would be cashiered or prosecuted.”

Shelby’s committee interviewed Deutch behind closed doors Tuesday and Shelby said that other current and former CIA officials will be called to testify next week.

The oversight panel launched its inquiry after parts of a classified report prepared by the CIA’s inspector general in July were leaked to the media earlier this month, causing a public furor.

The CIA had given the classified report to the Senate committee, as well as its counterpart in the House, in August. Neither took any action at the time.

An unclassified version of the CIA inspector general’s report, released Tuesday, was highly critical of both Deutch and the agency’s investigation of the case.

The report said that as CIA director from May 1995, until December 1996, Deutch “processed a large volume of highly classified information” on government-owned insecure desktop computers at his homes, at his two Washington-area offices, and on a CIA-issued laptop computer that he used when he traveled.

At least four of the five computers had modems and were connected to the Internet. None used encryption. The report said Deutch used the computers to send personal e-mail and to conduct online banking, using an online identity and password that “may have increased the risk of electronic attack.”