WASHINGTON – A former Clinton administration official and a former Whitewater special prosecutor are among those who will serve on a commission reviewing FBI internal security procedures following the Robert Hanssen spy case.
Former CIA and FBI Director William Webster is leading the commission to examine what can be done to prevent security breaches like those that occurred when Hanssen, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent, allegedly sold top-secret information to Moscow during a 15-year period.
Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, have been in discussions with Hanssen's lawyers about a possible plea bargain, a Justice Department official said.
Prosecutors want information about Hanssen's alleged spying activities. The government could seek the death penalty against Hanssen, charged with espionage.
Under one possible scenario, Hanssen could agree to provide information in exchange for the government not seeking an execution. It's unclear whether the two sides are making progress, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The death penalty was still on the table, the official said. Hanssen's lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Webster, tapped by FBI Director Louis Freeh in February to head the commission and recommend changes, has chosen six officials -- veterans of both Republican and Democratic administrations -- to work on the review, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Wednesday.
--Clifford L. Alexander Jr., a Washington consultant who worked in the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Carter administrations. He was a foreign affairs officer for the National Security Council in 1963 and secretary of the Army under Carter.
--Griffin Bell, a former appeals court judge and attorney general under Carter.
--William Cohen, a former Republican senator and defense secretary for President Clinton.
--Robert B. Fiske Jr., a former federal prosecutor appointed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno as special prosecutor to investigate Clinton's Whitewater business deals. Fiske was eventually replaced by Kenneth Starr.
--Thomas Foley, former Democratic House speaker and ambassador to Japan under Clinton.
--Carla A. Hills, U.S. trade representative during the previous Bush administration.
Webster also has recruited former Justice Department watchdog Michael Shaheen to the commission's staff. The commission is headquartered in offices on the first floor of the Justice Department building.
Hanssen, 56, is accused of giving Moscow 6,000 pages of secret U.S. documents since 1985 in exchange for more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. The FBI began investigating him only last year. He was arrested Feb. 18 and is in jail at an undisclosed location. A preliminary hearing is scheduled May 21.
Freeh has stepped up the use of lie-detector tests for certain agents and tightened auditing procedures as interim steps while Webster conducts his review, which is expected to take a few months.
The Justice Department's office of inspector general, an internal watchdog, is conducting a separate investigation of the FBI's performance in preventing, detecting and investigating Hanssen's alleged spying activities.