Senate to Probe Deutch Pardon

Committee to determine whether CIA was consulted

Vernon Loeb - The Washington Post - February 16, 2001

A senior intelligence official responded last night that neither Tenet nor anyone else at the CIA had any knowledge of the pardon in advance. The official also disclosed that Deutch's CIA security clearances - suspended by Tenet in August 1999 as punishment for Deutch's home computer security violations - have been revoked within the past week.

Clinton pardoned Deutch on Jan. 20 for mishandling hundreds of highly classified intelligence documents on unsecure home computers linked to the Internet, making them vulnerable to cyber-attack.

The pardon caught Justice Department officials by surprise. It came less than a day after they had secured Deutch's signature on a plea agreement - nullified by the pardon - in which he admitted to a misdemeanor for unauthorized retention of classified material and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine.

"I am very disturbed by what appears to be a subverting of the judicial process in the case of former director Deutch," Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the intelligence committee, said yesterday. "If John Deutch had already agreed to plead guilty to criminal violation, I just don't understand why the president would undermine his own Department of Justice."

As a result of the pardon, Shelby said, "Deutch essentially walked away from what is one of the most egregious cases of mishandling of classified information that I have ever seen short of espionage."

ATTORNEYS' TIES

A Senate source said the intelligence committee had also requested a meeting with Deutch's attorney, Terrence O'Donnell, a partner at Williams & Connolly who previously served as general counsel at the Department of Defense during the administration of former president George Bush. O'Donnell has worked closely at the firm with David E. Kendall, Clinton's private attorney, but there is currently no evidence that Kendall was involved in seeking a pardon for Deutch.

Neither O'Donnell nor Deutch could be reached for comment on whether or not they sought a pardon from the president.

It is unclear whether Deutch requested clemency from Clinton or whether the president acted on his own. But a former senior administration official said yesterday that numerous individuals with prior government national security experience had called the White House and expressed support for a Deutch pardon.

Having fielded some of those calls, national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger told President Clinton that he supported pardoning Deutch on the merits, the former official said, adding that Berger was not directly approached by Deutch or his attorneys.

'A LOT OF SUPPORT'

Berger and other senior White House officials believed Deutch deserved a pardon even though his home computer security violations were egregious. They cited his overall contributions to the government over many years and the fact that there is no evidence that any of the classified material he mishandled was ever obtained by unauthorized individuals.

"An awful lot of people outside of the government called . . . and said this would be a very good thing to happen - it had a lot of support in the national security world," the official said.

Shelby disagreed, saying Clinton's pardon of Deutch could "have an extremely demoralizing effect on the rank and file within the intelligence community. The clear message is if you are connected, you walk."