Fixing the FBI

WHEN a single FBI employee can compromise the identities of more than 50 people providing intelligence to the agency, the need for sweeping change is both immediate and obvious.

That's the conclusion of the the independent Security Review Commission on the case of Robert Hanssen, an FBI employee who spied for Russia for 22 years. (See story, page 2.)

The commission found that the agency paid "pervasive inattention to security." Those are strong words, and a strong reason for FBI Director Robert Mueller to restructure the agency to prevent security lapses.

Among the recommendations: that the agency create an independent office of security, develop more restricted access to sensitive material, audit computers closely, and conduct more lie-detector tests of employees.

The need to devise government-wide security standards in a post 9/11 era can't be overstated. New/old tensions at the FBI and other agencies caused by directors urging ever-wider cooperation in fighting terror, even as they tell their employees to keep a tight lid on secrets, are bound to emerge and will need to be resolved.

The FBI must wrestle with changing its internal culture from the sort of free-wheeling openness typical of law-enforcement officials to an agency that pays closer in-house attention to classified material.

Now it has an opportunity to create an even better model for other agencies also charged with helping to prevent future terrorist attacks.

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