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Former CIA Director apologises to Congress

Swan song for one of the dumbest computer users alive

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If former CIA Director John Deutch hasn't got sense enough to protect sensitive files stored on his computer, then we have to wonder how the US can hope to compete with its adversaries in the spook business. Deutch stored an incredible 17,000 pages of highly classified intelligence data on home computers, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), released this week. Forget about hackers; imagine the blow to US intelligence efforts if adversaries had simply broken into his house and stolen the bloody things. Or imagine if agents had compromised or merely bamboozled his domestic servant, a resident alien with no security clearance who typically remained in residence while the family was away. "Such an entry operation would not have posed a particularly difficult challenge, had a sophisticated operation been launched by opposition forces," the OIG report noted. The report noted no clear evidence that secrets were compromised, and predicted that calculating the loss, if any, might require months of further investigation. The data in question included CIA budget data, confidential communications with the President, and details of extremely secret Pentagon operations known as "black ops". Deutch appeared before a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee to explain how this incredibly sensitive information came to be stored on his personal computers, even after leaving the Agency in 1996. He is said to have apologised sincerely and profusely to Congress. Translation: he has no explanation. Sorry as he may be, the OIG suspects that Deutch deliberately deleted classified files on his home computers after being caught in December of 1995. Worse, there are concerns now of a CIA cover-up to protect Deutch from punishment and the Agency from ridicule. Present CIA Director George Tenet waited a full 18 months before notifying Congress of Deutch's lapse of sanity, the OIG notes. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (Republican, Alabama) characterised the delay as "troubling." "I don't believe this was George Tenet and his staff's finest hour," Shelby observed dryly. "All of the delay, the lack of notification to the committees, the FBI, and so forth is....inexplicable." Shelby said the Committee is conducting its own investigation, and is considering the possibility that Tenet should be sacked. ®

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