Roger Spaeder quoted in the article "CIA Lawyer Will Not Answer Senate Questions on Deutch" by The Washington Times
CIA Lawyer Will Not Answer Senate Questions on Deutch
Bill Gertz, The Washington Times
March 7, 2001
The former top lawyer for the CIA is to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today but will decline to answer questions about his role in a security investigation of former CIA Director John Deutch. Michael O'Neil will not answer questions from the panel until the Justice Department completes its review of whether CIA officials acted improperly in handling the investigation of Mr. Deutch, Roger Spaeder, an attorney for Mr. O'Neil, said in an interview.
A Senate aide said the former CIA general counsel is expected to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights during the closed-door hearing. The amendment allows people to avoid answering questions that could lead to their prosecution.
Mr. Spaeder said the committee recently asked Mr. O'Neil whether he would cooperate with the investigation if granted immunity from prosecution.
"That's for the committee to decide," Mr. Spaeder said. "We are not seeking immunity and are not bargaining for immunity."
The committee and the Justice Department are examining whether senior CIA officials, including Director George J. Tenet, covered up a security probe of Mr. Deutch in late 1996 and 1997.
CIA security personnel discovered in December 1996, shortly after Mr. Deutch retired, that he had improperly stored several dozen highly sensitive intelligence and defense documents on home computers.
The computers were not secure and had been used to access "high-risk" Internet sites by a member of Mr. Deutch's family, according to a CIA inspector general report.
The CIA is making a damage assessment of whether its secrets were compromised, including covert-action programs. The Pentagon is still deciding whether to defense secrets were lost. Officials said the defense information included details of special-access programs, "black programs" that are among the most sensitive secrets.
According to the CIA report, Mr. O'Neil refused to turn over four computer storage cards to investigators for several weeks and discussed destroying the data on them with Mr. Deutch.
He also failed to make a formal notification to the Justice Department of the security breach that included possible violations of U.S. laws. Mr. O'Neil notified the FBI but not its parent agency.
The CIA report said the delay in notifying Justice officials precluded the appointment of an independent counsel because the one- year statute of limitations had expired by the time a formal "crimes report" was sent to Justice by the CIA inspector general in 1998.
The CIA report said that Mr. O'Neil "had conversations over a period of several weeks" with Mr. Tenet, the deputy director at the time, Nora Slatkin, the CIA executive director, and Richard Calder, the CIA administration chief, about "exploitation" of the computer cards by security personnel and "protecting Deutch's privacy."
Mr. Tenet failed to inform the House and Senate intelligence committees about the matter for some 18 months. He has given no explanation for the lapse.
Mr. Tenet failed to notify the Senate panel even though he promised the committee in 1997 during his nomination hearing to keep senators fully informed of all intelligence activities.
Investigators also want to question Mr. O'Neil about his handling of a CIA contract with Mr. Deutch. The no-fee contract allowed Mr. Deutch to continuing using the CIA-supplied home computers after he retired.
Investigators suspect the contract was part of a scheme to prevent CIA security officials from finding the improperly stored classified documents.
Asked about the allegations, Mr. Spaeder said: "As to whether Mr. O'Neil intentionally engaged in any activities to cover up, I can assure you we emphatically deny that," Mr. Spaeder said. "He did not engage in any conduct, intentionally or unintentionally to obstruct the investigation."
Mr. O'Neil initially had agreed to testify before the committee March 1 but backed out after Attorney General Janet Reno announced the Justice Department would reviewing the case.
Senate intelligence committee Chairman Sen. Richard C. Shelby rejected Mr. O'Neil's written refusal to testify and is demanding that the the former CIA lawyer appear before the committee, the Senate aide said.
"If O'Neil wants to decline to testify, he has to do it in person," he said.
Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our Web site at here.