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Senate Wants Deutch Answers

The CIA's former general counsel is being commanded to appear before a Senate panel to explain why it took the agency so long to act on information that former CIA Director John Deutch had violated security rules by storing top secrets on unsecured home computers.

A subpoena for Michael J. O'Neil's testimony was issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday after the former CIA official refused to show up before the committee on the advice of his lawyer.

Panel members said they had intended to question O'Neil on whether he withheld information about his former boss from agency investigators and the Justice Department.

O'Neil's lawyer, Roger Spaeder, sent a letter to the panel saying that he had advised O'Neil that "he should not testify at this time" because Attorney General Reno had decided to review her earlier decision declining prosecution of Deutch and others identified in a CIA inspector general's report.

However, Spaeder suggested that O'Neil "is prepared to cooperate and testify" if the committee were to vote to give him immunity from possible prosecution.

The subpoena, passed by unanimous vote, instructs O'Neil to appear before the committee next Wednesday.

"I'm sure he'll assert the Fifth Amendment, but we want him to do it in front of the committee," committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in an interview. Shelby said he did not anticipate that the panel would agree to the immunity request.

Reno announced last week that the Justice Department was taking a fresh look at Deutch's computer conduct and at the CIA's own review of the case.

Although the security lapse was found in December 1996 as Deutch was leaving the agency, the CIA did not submit a report to the Justice Department until March 1998 and did not notify congressional oversight panels until June 1998.

CIA director from May 1995 to December 1996, Deutch processed thousands of highly classified documents on unprotected home computers that he and family members also used to connect to the Internet, according to the CIA inspector general's report.

Deutch has apologized for his behavior.

Now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Deutch was stripped of most of his security clearances by CIA Director George Tenet last August. As a former deputy defense secretary, Deutch also had Pentagon clearances, but he voluntarily gave them up earlier this month.

O'Neil, who left the agency in October 1997, at first declined to turn over computer storage cards from Deutch's computers and delayed notifying the Justice Department of the matter, according to an unclassified version of the inspector general's report.

Tenet has called Deutch's computer behavior inexcusable and has apologized for his own delay in forwarding the information to the Justice Department and Congress - but said the delay wasn't intentional.

According to the CIA inspector general's report, O'Neil and Nora Slatkin, the CIA'former executive director and now an official with Citigroup, acted in a manner that "had the effect of delaying a prompt investigation of this matter."

Slatkin has agreed to appear before the committee although a time has yet to be set.

The CIA report also suggested that O'Neil had failed to send a "crimes report" to the Justice Department despite evidence that laws may have been violated and information withheld from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Spaeder, O'Neil's lawyer, did not return a phone call.

But, in his letter to the committee, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, Spaeder said:

"Mr. O'Neil's recollection of the relevant events is already available to the committee in the inspector general's report."

Spaeder also took issue with what he said were implications that some committee members may believe "that an unlawful cover-up occurred in the CIA's handling of the Deutch investigation."

"No such evidence was reported in the Inspector General's findings and conclusions," Spaeder wrote.

By Tom Raum
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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