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CIA Linked to at Least 35 Suspect Reports : Intelligence: Specter says 11 were sent to U.S. presidents without telling of double-agent sources. House, Senate leaders differ over scope of controversy.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

CIA officers passed on at least 35 reports to top U.S. policy-makers without disclosing that the information was coming from Soviet double agents, congressional leaders said Thursday.

Between 1986 and 1994, in fact, the CIA distributed 95 reports from the double agents and other questionable sources but often failed to disclose to policy-makers that the spy agency had doubts about the reliability of the agents who had provided the materials.

Eleven such reports were sent to U.S. presidents without proper disclosures, according to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Most of those suspect reports went to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but at least one went to President-elect Bill Clinton just before he took office in January, 1993, Specter said.

But just as these new details from the CIA’s internal damage assessment of the Aldrich H. Ames spy scandal emerged Thursday, House and Senate leaders were disagreeing openly over the scope of the controversy touched off by the revelation that CIA officials failed to tell policy-makers they were receiving intelligence reports from Soviet double agents. In fact, House and Senate leaders offered conflicting public statements Thursday about how much of the information passed on to the CIA was genuine and whether it had a significant impact on U.S. arms purchases.

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Ever since the Ames damage assessment report was presented to Congress by the CIA last week, the spy agency has been besieged with criticism that it knowingly allowed “controlled information” from KGB agents to flow through the U.S. intelligence community--and even to the Oval Office--without telling anybody.

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The damage assessment report, which is still classified, suggests that the “controlled information” passed on by those double agents “influenced” some U.S. weapons purchases, perhaps by giving Washington an inflated picture of Soviet military capabilities.

Yet the damage assessment, according to sources who have seen the report, is careful not to declare that Russian spies were the decisive factor in convincing the United States to make needless and costly purchases of new weapons.

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Last week, Specter said that the double agents passed on disinformation about Soviet weaponry that led the United States to spend “billions of dollars” needlessly on new weapons to keep up with Moscow.

On Thursday, Specter and Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), the Intelligence Committee’s vice chairman, were more guarded. They said that Congress is still trying to determine the impact of the information from double agents on U.S. military planning and other matters, such as negotiations on arms control issues.

Specter refused, however, to concede that the controversy may not have been quite as costly to the United States as he initially had said.

Yet House Intelligence Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Tex.) issued a statement Thursday saying he is convinced that there “is no evidence that Soviet or Russian sources passed ‘bogus’ information to U.S. intelligence.” Instead, the “controlled information” passed on by Soviet agents was actually genuine--in an attempt by the KGB secret police to establish good credentials of its double agents with the CIA.

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Combest added that there also has been “no evidence to date to suggest that any single U.S. policy or procurement decision came as a result of these intelligence items. Indeed, it would be fallacious to assume that such decisions could be influenced so easily, given the process and bureaucracies involved. There is no evidence to date to suggest that the United States wasted billions of dollars because of this intelligence.”

Other intelligence sources agreed with Combest and pointed out that the Pentagon acquisition system is so complex--it takes so many years to develop a new weapons program--that it would be virtually impossible for a small stream of disinformation from the Soviets to have much of an impact.

Intelligence sources have laid most of the blame for the fact that controlled information was passed on to policy-makers without proper notification to a handful of reports officers in the CIA’s secretive Soviet Division.

Robert Lubbehusen, a retired chief reports officer for the Soviet Division, has been reprimanded by CIA Director John M. Deutch for sending out reports without disclosing that the information came from double agents. Sources said that he was responsible for most of the instances cited in the Ames damage assessment.

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Last week, officials said he was guilty of doing that on 16 occasions. On Thursday, Specter did not identify Lubbehusen, but he said that the officer previously thought to have passed on information from double agents 16 times had actually done so 27 times.


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