WASHINGTON – An FBI official tried to play down the connection between a critical report on bureau security and security breaches by convicted spy and FBI agent Robert Hanssen.
"We are not just focused on counterintelligence because that's the problem of the day and we got stung by Hanssen," said Ken Senser, a CIA Office of Security employee who has been detailed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as assistant director of the FBI's Security Division.
Senser will head up the creation of a career security force made up of "a cadre of non-agent security people" who would "remake the program from top-to-bottom."
In a 90-minute briefing with reporters Wednesday, Senser outlined several of the enhanced security measures the FBI hopes to implement in advance of this week's expected release of the "Webster Report," which is said to be highly critical of bureau security procedures and concerns in the wake of the wide-ranging damage incurred by admitted spy Hanssen.
Senser deflected questions about the report's actual contents, saying instead that the report is certain to have a resounding and lasting effect on bureau culture and internal interaction, and will be posted on the FBI's Intranet once it is released so all agents can read it.
"The bureau intends to use the report as a resource," Senser said.
The security apparatus at the FBI prior to Hanssen's exposure was "fractured," Senser said, adding that the bureau's eight divisions weren't talking to each other as they should; there was a lack of integration within the bureau as well as "inadequate security expertise;" and security measures in general were "culturally insignificant."
Prior to Hanssen, he added, the FBI "accepted too much risk."
Among one of Senser's first priorities is the establishment of a flag and alert procedure within the FBI's internal communications and database systems.
Hanssen freely accessed technology beyond his security clearance during his 25-year tenure with the bureau.
"Hanssen was able to get access to information he shouldn't have had, even if he had 'legitimate' access to it," Senser said. "He just did a lot of surfing."
New "proactive flags" will be installed inside the FBI's internal database and communications systems that are intended to alert officials when somebody is doing a search in the system using code names.
As for the clearances, Senser said the bureau had to do a better job of blocking people — even with their top secret clearances — from seeing information they had no need to see. "Even if someone has clearance, don't give them the information unless they have a specific reason to have it."
Senser has also begun a process of polygraphing FBI operatives who have access to the most sensitive and secret information. The first round consisted of tests of 700 bureau employees, or "crown jewels." Of those, between 1 percent and 7 percent did not pass.
"This isn't because they are spies," Senser said.
Bureau Director Robert Mueller elaborated, saying the polygraphs were "indicators" that "further investigation is needed."
"We are heartened that less than 1 percent of the 700 raised issues will require further investigation," he said.
There is no indication of what kind of probes will be initiated, or whether or not these people will be reassigned during the process. Mueller acknowledged he was one of those who took a polygraph, saying "I didn't particularly like it."
In regard to the Webster report, named after former FBI and Central Intelligence Agency head William Webster, Mueller said he had not seen a completed version.
"We want to look at the Webster report and see what recommendations there are," he said. "The critical thing is for us to prioritize security. We have a ways to go."