WASHINGTON — FBI agents who worked with former FBI Director William H. Webster say they aren’t sure he’s the right person to find better ways to root out double agents and other bad apples in the agency, which has been snake-bitten by one of the worst spy scandals in U.S. history.
One senior agent who worked under Webster in the 1980s claims the one-time judge pulled the plug on a bureau-wide polygraph exam program after a high-level FBI official flunked his own lie-detector test.
“The reaction was to get rid of the program instead of the guy,” said the veteran agent, who worked out of the FBI’s headquarters here.
FBI Director Louis Freeh tapped Webster, 77, to review internal security procedures upon revealing that an FBI spy managed to escape detection for nearly 16 years.
Robert Philip Hanssen, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent, was arrested Sunday and accused of selling vital U.S. secrets to Russia for more than $600,000 in cash and diamonds. Another $800,000 was allegedly promised to him in escrow accounts.
The FBI never subjected Hanssen to routine polygraph tests, which might have detected his alleged espionage sooner. In fact, he may have never had to take a
single polygraph in his 27 years at the agency, even though he had access to the most sensitive intelligence programs.
Freeh said that Webster — who headed the FBI from 1978 to 1987, as well as the CIA from 1987 to 1991 — brings a “unique experience and background in government management and counterintelligence.”
“Moreover,” he added, “the respect he enjoys throughout the intelligence community and elsewhere in government is second to none.”
But the former agent, who asked not to be named, claims Webster buckled when it came to administering the polygraphs.
“They were going to institute a standard operating procedure to test everybody periodically, like the CIA does,” he told WorldNetDaily.
He says they recruited agents to attend a polygraph school run by the Army to increase the number of polygraph examiners in the agency.
But plans were suddenly canceled.
“A very high-ranking guy who worked in the intelligence field had flunked the polygraph examination during the pilot program,” the agent said. “One of the guys up on the 7th floor (of FBI headquarters) flunked the test.”
“So what do they do? They say, ‘Well, polygraphs aren’t worth a (expletive),’ instead of thinking maybe there’s something wrong with him,” he added.
Polygraphs aren’t always reliable and aren’t admissible in court, he acknowledged, “but they’re still tools” that can be used to tighten internal security.
“The director at the time the decision was made (to cancel the bureau-wide polygraph program) was Bill Webster — the guy who’s going to investigate this thing,” he said.
Phone calls to Webster’s Washington law offices were not returned.
“If the Bush administration wanted to have a real honest, solid investigation, they would not ask Judge Webster to run this sort of thing,” the agent asserted.
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