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CIA's probe of its watchdog yields changes

December 23, 2007|Greg Miller | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The CIA has completed a controversial in-house probe of its inspector general and plans to make a series of changes in the way the agency conducts internal investigations, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson has consented to more than a dozen procedural changes designed to address complaints that investigations carried out by his office were unfair to agency employees, the officials said.

But the agency will not force Helgerson to revise previously issued reports or acknowledge flaws in the reports, including one report that was sharply critical of top CIA officials for intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The broader objective is to make the process fair, or fairer," said a senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter.

In particular, the official said, the changes are designed to give employees a greater ability to defend their actions and present their views in reports issued by the inspector general, whose job is to be an in-house watchdog.

The officials said the changes would probably be announced next month by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, who ordered the internal probe this year.

The investigation was criticized on Capitol Hill and by former agency officials as an attack on the independence of the inspector general.

The senior intelligence official disagreed with that characterization: "We have no interest in trampling upon the independence of the I.G. It's not our interest, not our goal."

The probe was led by Robert L. Deitz, an attorney and longtime associate of Hayden who was brought to the agency to serve as a senior advisor to the director.

Though the probe is essentially complete, officials said, Deitz and Helgerson are still negotiating details -- delayed because both men have become involved in new investigations, into recent disclosures that the CIA destroyed videotapes showing harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects.

A CIA spokesman declined to discuss details of the procedural changes but confirmed that the matter was nearly complete.

"This has always been a straightforward management review," said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield. "The aim has been to make the office even more efficient and effective as well as making its procedures more transparent and understandable to employees."

Helgerson has issued a series of harshly worded reports in recent years, and has investigated highly classified programs, including secret prison sites.

In 2005, Helgerson recommended that then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and other senior officials be held accountable for pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures.

greg.miller@latimes.com

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