Justice Department investigators plan to give lie-detector tests to federal strike-force lawyers and FBI officials in an effort to trace the sources of unusually detailed leaks on the congressional bribery scandal, officials said yesterday.
These officials said that the use of the polygraph, whose results are not admissible as evidence in federal court, indicates the determination of Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti to move against sources of the information.
"No investigative techniques are being ruled out, except that reporters will not be subpoenaed," a department spokesman said. If the investigation turns up evidence of violation of criminal law, "we will go to a grand jury" for indictments, he said.
Amond those who reportedly will be asked to take lie-detector tests are Neil J. Welch, head of the FBI's New York office, its largest and traditionally its most independent, and Thomas P. Puccio, head of the organized-crime strike force in Brooklyn.
The plan to use the polygraph has stirred resentment because of its controversial use in security investigations by the State Department several years ago.
"I've never heard of this being done, except by those yo-yos at State," one Justice official said.
Civiletti was described as "outraged" when told that The New York Times had obtained a prosecutive memorandum on the bribery investigation. This enabled the paper to print a detailed account of the evidence against eight members of Congress.
There is nothing new about internal investigations into leaks of information from the Justice Department, but the probes seldom result in punishment for department lawyers of FBI agents.
During the tenure of Civiletti's predecessor as attorney general, Griffin B. Bell, one leak investigation that used sworn affidavits as its most powerful tool did produce information implicating a lawyer in the civil rights division as the source of details in a sensitive FBI break-in case. But by that time, the attorney had left the department.
"This investigation is going to be more intensive than those earlier ones," an official said yesterday.
One reason for the intensity is the belief by some department officials that impending publications of the information shut off the undercover bribery operation too early and unnecessarily stirred up congressional resentment.