DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, October 7, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD (PA)

.................. Q: I wanted to ask you a question about the espionage case that's arisen this week. On the matter of security clearances for Squillacote and Stand, who I understand worked for the Army, do you have any information about whether any questions were raised about their background, or whether they were given the standard background checks and so forth in the security review?

A: I have to be somewhat limited in what I can pass along, but I will say a couple of things. First of all, it's standard practice for the Department, in situations like this, to do a review of all of the aspects of processes and procedures that were followed in connection with individuals who worked in the Department who are subsequently charged with activities like these individuals. That review is being done, and the goal is, of course, to find out two things. One, what might have occurred in this case, if there were any unusual circumstances that resulted in the individuals being granted security clearances. And secondly, to see if there need to be any changes in the process that we follow in these cases.

The situation with Mrs. Squillacote was that she had a Secret security clearance. Just for your information, what is normally required for a Secret clearance is what is called a records' check. That is to say a review of government agency records that would indicate if there were any previous allegations or activities that might impact on the ability of the Department to grant a security clearance.

I want to differentiate that from a Top Secret security clearance which would involve what is called a background check. In a background check there are individuals from the Defense Investigative Service who actually go around to individuals who have worked with people, who know people, who have some knowledge of their activities over many, many years, and develop kind of a profile of the individual.

In this particular instance, in Ms. Squillacote's case, she had a Secret security clearance, but not a Top Secret.

Q: How does the criteria for the examination of one's background differ between someone getting a Secret clearance and someone getting a press pass? There are records checks on both. Are they approximately the same?

A: Frankly, I don't think I can answer your question. I just don't know enough about what kind of review is done on somebody getting a press pass. We can take a look at that and see if there is.

Q: I'm just curious if there's any difference.

A: It's an interesting question. I don't know the answer. We can see if we can shed any light on that.

Q: Just to be clear here, you're saying in the case of this employee that no background check was conducted because it wasn't necessary for Secret clearance? Just a records' check.

A: A records' check would be the normal situation with an individual who is granted a Secret security clearance.

Let me make the distinction here. I should refrain from talking about this specific case because this one is now in the hands of the Justice Department and the courts. But I can tell you in general, individuals who have a Secret security clearance have gone through a records' check. Individuals who have a Top Secret security clearance go through additional steps which include a number of interviews with individuals with whom they've been associated over the course of their lifetime.

Q: In general, then, can you tell us the difference between what kinds of material, generally speaking, someone with a Secret clearance would have access to, as opposed to somebody with a Top Secret clearance?

A: The names imply the kinds of materials they have access to. Individuals who have Secret security clearances have access to some information that is considered Secret. Individuals who have Top Secret, have access to Top Secret information.

But it goes a little further than that, because it is incorrect to say that an individual with a Top Secret security clearance has access to all Top Secret information. It is Top Secret information that they have some need to know in the course of carrying out their duties. The same would be true of a person with a Secret security clearance.

Q: Are there other levels of clearances on this scale, or are those the two... Is there a double Top Secret and less than Secret?

A: There are NATO classifications. There are also levels of compartmented information where individuals must be read into various programs, but I'm not going to get very specific about all of that.

Q: On the case of Stand, who worked for the Army for a time, he had previously been "security disapproved" by the CIA when he applied there. Shouldn't that have been picked up, or was anyone aware of that?

A: I can't answer your question on that one. I'm sure that will be part of the review that is ongoing now, though.

Q: What sort of clearance did he have at the Army?

A: I don't know what kind of a clearance he had. My guess is he had some kind of a security clearance, but I don't know for a fact what he was given.

Q: It's my understanding that not just the Pentagon but federal agencies in general, before this case came forward, were working on re-working the whole security clearance issue. I know there's a Security Policy Board that's made a lot of recommendations. Can you discuss that at all? Has there been kind of a review of the whole process?

A: Over the years there have been a number of revisions to the approach to security clearances. The most recent one that I am aware of did several things. First, it reduced the total number of people in the Department of Defense who were granted security clearances. Second, it required individuals, once they are granted a security clearance, to go back for a review on a periodic basis. I believe the basis is every five years, the individual must be relooked at to see if one, there is any requirement for the security clearance; and two, to see if there's anything in the record of the individual that would be a problem in continuing with that level of clearance.

Q: Does that go for both civilian and uniformed?

A: Yes.

Q: Is there any sort of a day-after assessment as to the amount of damage done to the Defense Department, that might have been done from the kinds of documents that one of the defendants was trying to pass? Even though she was passing it to an FBI agent.

A: I think that you need to talk to the FBI on this. It's really their case.

Q: They're your documents.

A: The one thing I can say about the documents was that they were passed to an FBI agent. They were at the Secret level. They never fell into the hands of a foreign government.

Q: Were they potentially damaging, or information that would compromise national security in any significant way?

A: I believe that you need to talk to the FBI on their assessment of how they characterize this information. I'll just say that it was classified as Secret. And the FBI considers this a very serious matter.

Q: Do you know how many people, in the past how many employees in the Defense Department have been arrested for espionage activities?

A: No, I don't have the rundown on that.

Q: Have there been any changes made at the entryways to the Pentagon in terms of inspecting bags leaving the building as a result of comments that this woman apparently made, how easy it was to take stuff out of the Pentagon?

A: Not as a result of what this woman did. There have been some changes made over the course of the last couple of years regarding periodic checks that are done, but I am not aware of any changes just as a result of anything that she has said.

Q: Can you give us anything on the documents, even generically? Was it weapons' data? Was it planning documents that she was providing?

A: I can't give you any details on that. I think you're going to have to wait until this gets a little further along in the courts.