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Tuesday October 10, 2000

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Pentagon can't find Deutch disks

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Pentagon investigators have been unable to locate computer diskettes that ex-CIA Director John Deutch used to store a journal when working at the Defense Department, officials say. The journal contained classified information.

Deutch has declined to be interviewed about the whereabouts of the disks, created during his tenure as deputy defense secretary in the mid-1990s, officials said.

"There's no way to tell what their ultimate disposition might have been without talking to Dr. Deutch, and he has declined requests for our investigators to talk with him on this or other topics," Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

The investigation of the missing diskettes comes after CIA officials already concluded that Deutch improperly recorded government secrets in a private journal about his government experiences. He stored the journal on electronic storage cards during his tenure as head of the spy agency.

While the storage cards he used at CIA have been recovered, the Pentagon was unable to locate the diskettes Deutch created during his Defense Department days, when he began the journal, officials said yesterday.

The Pentagon has been conducting a damage assessment to determine if his action jeopardized national security. The Justice Department also is investigating whether any criminal charges are warranted.

Deutch's lawyer yesterday declined comment, citing the investigations. Deutch cooperated with the CIA probe, and earlier this year apologized for sloppy handling of classified information.

At CIA's urging, Pentagon criminal investigators began their own inquiry in February into Deutch's handling of classified information when he was the No. 2 defense official from 1993 to 1995.

They concluded he began compiling the journal during his tenure at the Pentagon and stored it on diskettes.

"Dr. Deutch was known to transport these floppy disks in his shirt pocket," the investigators wrote in their report, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The investigators also found Deutch began to experience technical problems with the disks at the end of his tenure at the Pentagon, prompting him to change to higher-capacity storage cards at CIA.

The electronic cards can store hundreds of times more information than a single floppy disk.

According to the final draft report, Pentagon investigators also found Deutch "declined departmental requests that he allow security systems to be installed in his residence," where he sometimes worked on classified documents. His home computers were sometimes used to access the Internet.

The missing diskettes are likely to focus new attention on the government's ability to protect its most important secrets - an issue that has received extensive scrutiny in the aftermath of the Wen Ho Lee case at the Energy Department nuclear weapons labs.

Lee was accused of downloading 10 computer tapes of nuclear weapons design secrets from the labs. Unable to locate seven tapes, the government charged Lee with 59 felonies and kept him in solitary confinement for nine months while trying to build a case against him. The government eventually reached a plea bargain in which Lee pleaded guilty to a single count of mishandling nuclear secrets. He also agreed to tell what he did with the information he admits to having downloaded onto tapes and unsecure computers.

The government has not charged Deutch with any wrongdoing.

The Pentagon investigators who probed Deutch raised concerns about lax Pentagon computer security.

They noted that some computers the ex-official used were donated to schools without the hard drives being destroyed. When investigators located the computers, they were able to recover significant Pentagon information.

None of the information was classified, but the investigators warned that such lax security could result in "the improper release and use of classified or sensitive information.

"Current policy on what is required to dispose of these types of hard drives is not clear. We recommend that the department implement policy that requires the destruction of all computer hard drives, classified and unclassified, before the computer is disposed of outside the DOD," investigators wrote.