CIA places controls on its inspector general

Times Staff Writer

The CIA's internal investigative branch will be subjected to a series of new checks and controls designed to give targets of in-house probes greater ability to defend themselves, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said in a statement to the agency's employees.

Among the changes is the creation of two positions to oversee the work of the CIA's inspector general, including a "quality control officer" charged with monitoring the inspector's handling of evidence and testimony.

The changes mark the culmination of a controversial inquiry Hayden launched last year into how the inspector general carried out investigations. The probe was driven by complaints from employees who said they had been treated unfairly by the inspector general's office.

The move was seen by some as an attempt to rein in an office that had produced a series of reports harshly critical of top CIA officers and that was in the midst of reviewing some of the agency's most sensitive programs, including its interrogations of terrorism suspects.

But Hayden insisted in a statement issued Thursday to the CIA workforce that the review was designed to "enhance the performance" of the inspector general, a position that is supposed to function as an internal watchdog. A copy of Hayden's statement was obtained Friday by The Times.

Hayden indicated that the changes were being made voluntarily by CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson, even though Helgerson previously had expressed concern about the inquiry in private conversations with congressional officials and former colleagues.

"John has chosen to take a number of steps to heighten the efficiency, assure the quality and increase the transparency of the investigative process," Hayden said.

Congressional officials said it was too early to determine whether the changes described by Hayden would pose any threat to the independence of the inspector general's office.

"Most of it on its surface looks innocuous," said a senior Democratic staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee who would discuss committee views only on the condition of anonymity. "But we'd like to hear Helgerson's view on how these procedures are going to work."

The most significant change appears to be the creation of the quality control position. That officer would be required to "attest, among other things, that reports include all exculpatory and relevant mitigating information," according to Hayden's statement.

CIA officials who were targets of investigations in recent years have complained that their accounts and explanations were not given adequate weight in reports issued by Helgerson's office.

In one widely reported case, Helgerson aimed scathing criticism at former CIA Director George J. Tenet and other top officials for their roles in intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. Helgerson concluded that they "did not discharge their duties in a satisfactory manner" and recommended that they go before special in-house panels to determine whether they should be formally reprimanded.

The conclusions were denounced by targets of the 2005 probe, including Tenet, who issued a statement saying: "The IG is flat wrong."

Hayden said the CIA would also create an ombudsman position on the inspector general's staff to give agency employees "a new, less formal way of communicating any concerns they have" about the conduct of investigations.

Other changes include the installation of new equipment for recording inspector general interviews with employees and the creation of a website that would advise employees on how to obtain legal representation and allow them to examine draft reports of investigations.

Hayden said that Helgerson had also committed to "reducing the time it takes to complete an investigation." Employees have complained that certain Helgerson probes dragged on for years, leaving targeted workers in a state of investigative limbo.

Hayden's review of Helgerson's office was conducted by Robert L. Deitz, an attorney who serves as a senior aide to the director and had worked with Hayden when he was director of the National Security Agency.

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greg.miller@latimes.com

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