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  Ex-CIA Head Planned Guilty Plea

By Michael J. Sniffen
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2001; 4:37 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON –– Former CIA Director John M. Deutch agreed last Friday to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for mishandling government secrets, but President Clinton pardoned him before the Justice Department could file the case against him, officials said Wednesday.

Deutch was among 176 people granted some form of clemency by Clinton just hours before he left office on Saturday. Clinton's pardon for Deutch said it was "those offenses described in the Jan. 19, 2001 information."

But Justice officials said the department did not file a criminal information in court against Deutch on that day – last Friday. An information is used to file charges almost exclusively in cases where defendants have reached a plea bargain with prosecutors and thus have waived their right to have a grand jury consider the charges and agreed to have them filed directly with the court in a criminal information.

Federal officials said last Friday that Deutch was near a plea bargain with prosecutors in which he would plead guilty to a misdemeanor but not be sentenced to any time in prison for keeping secrets on his unsecured home computers, which were linked to the Internet.

A federal law enforcement official, requesting anonymity, said Wednesday that Deutch signed the agreement Friday but too late to file it in court that day. The next time it could have been filed was Monday but in the meantime, Clinton issued the pardon Saturday.

Justice officials have declined to release the information or any plea bargain documents and say there is no reason to file them in court now the Deutch has been pardoned for the offense.

The timing illustrates the hasty nature of some of Clinton's last-minute pardons, but has little or no practical effect on Deutch because even if the charges had been filed and his plea taken earlier, he would still have avoided incarceration and gotten a presidential pardon.

A pardon releases a person from the punishment of a crime. States have different criteria for restoring the individual rights of those granted presidential pardons.

Presidents have the power to pardon citizens for offenses befo h's attorney, Terrence O'Donnell did not return calls seeking his comment.

Deutch, CIA director from May 1995 to December 1996, stored and processed hundreds of files of highly classified material on unprotected home computers that he and family members also used to connect to the Internet, according to an internal CIA investigation. The Defense Department's inspector general found similar conduct during Deutch's prior service at the Pentagon.

Now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Deutch was stripped of his security clearances by CIA director George Tenet in 1999. As a former deputy defense secretary, Deutch also had Pentagon clearances, but he voluntarily gave them up last year.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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