EXCLUSIVE: Is CIA Leak Probe a 'Witch Hunt'?

ByABC News
February 6, 2006, 8:24 PM

Feb. 7, 2006 — -- The director of the CIA has launched a major internal probe into media leaks about covert operations. In an agencywide e-mail, Porter Goss blamed "a very small number of people" for leaks about secret CIA operations that, in his words, "do damage to the credibility of the agency."

According to people familiar with the Goss e-mail, sent in late January and classified secret, the CIA director warned that any CIA officer deemed suspect by the agency's Office of Security and its Counter Intelligence Center (which handles internal affairs) could be subjected to an unscheduled lie detector test. CIA personnel are subjected to polygraphs at regular intervals in their careers, but one former intelligence officer called the new warning a "witch hunt." Others said Goss' e-mail was narrowly focused and did not suggest agencywide, random lie detector tests.

"It would make no sense at all to give everyone here a lie detector test," said one person who knew about the e-mail.

Goss told CIA employees there were ways other than talking to the news media to resolve any issues they had with classified CIA operations.

The memo informs its recipients that the CIA has asked the Justice Department to prosecute any leakers within its ranks. This comes in connection with recent news reports that detailed the CIA's operation of secret prisons in Europe and its far-flung flights of suspected terrorists to foreign prisons.

Crime reports from the CIA are sent to the FBI and the Department of Justice, and constitute a statement that the CIA believes a crime has been committed.

Current and former employees say there have been only a handful of such agencywide memos in recent years. One dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace and another with the embezzlement of agency money.

Goss confirmed the general outline of the leak probe in his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 2.

"We also have an investigation of finding out what leakage, if any, is coming out of that building," he said, referring to CIA headquarters. "And I'm afraid there is some coming out. I also believe that there has been an erosion of the culture of secrecy. And we're trying to reinstill that."