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CNN Today

FBI to Change Polygraph Policy

Aired February 22, 2001 - 4:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also in his news conference today, the president talked about it his concerns stemming out of the arrest earlier this week of Robert Hanssen; of course, the FBI agent who is now accused of on spying on behalf of the Russians here in the United States. More on that story and how it is developing now, CNN's Kelli Arena, our Justice Department correspondent joins us from our Washington bureau -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, the latest news is that senior FBI officials tell CNN that they will be changing their polygraph policy. The FBI has come under some criticism because we have learned that Robert Hanssen was never polygraphed and there are some who suggest that, if the FBI had been routinely polygraphing their agents, that maybe they would have got tipped off to Hanssen much earlier than they did.

Basically, the way it would work, as a symbolic gesture, is that FBI director Louis Freeh would be polygraphed first, followed by his deputy director and other assistant directors at the FBI. I am told that the testing would probably be random, but across the board. And the FBI officials also said that they would be some cultural images to get over. As one official said to me, over at the CIA, when they hear polygraph, they think, matter, of course, of doing business.

When FBI agents hear the word polygraph, they think of that as a tool to be used against criminals. So, there is a whole mind-set that has to be overcome at the FBI and we have spoken to several FBI agents and representative of the agent's union, who said that there will be some flak if agents are asked to be polygraphed, but this does look like it's going forward.

This will come -- this change will come before Judge William Webster, who is the former director of the FBI, and the former director of the CIA as well, puts his plans forward. As you know, he was asked by Director Freeh to review the FBI security procedures and to come forward with recommendations. This polygraph change will happen before William Webster completes his review -- Joie

CHEN: Kelli, I didn't even realize that there was an FBI's agent's union. Let's talk more about the Hanssen's case itself. I assume that the investigation still goes on, even though the case has been made already against Hanssen. Have they been able to pinpoint how much money there was delivered to Hanssen and where it went? ARENA: Well, as you know, the $600,000 of the money was sent here to the United States; $800,000 was allegedly in a Russian -- a Moscow escrow account. That is not what the FBI was concerned with. The FBI is concerned about the $600,000 that was allegedly delivered here to Hanssen. They have not been able to find that money. They are looking. As one official said to me, Hanssen was a CPA, a Certificate Public Accountant, and he was a very good one; he was very careful to cover his tracks.

FBI agents go through five-year checks of their finances -- things are checked, like, have they paid off their mortgage? Is the level of debt any different than it was five years ago, and in an astonishingly different way?

He was very careful -- Hanssen, to not have any outward signs that he had come into any extra money, but they haven't been able to find it. They say that they will continue to look, even if it takes several years. They want the money back.

CHEN: I'm sure they do. Kelli Arena, our CNN Justice correspondent, joining us from our Washington bureau today.

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