CIA Calls for Inquiry of its Own Inspector General CIA Director Michael Hayden has called for an unusual inquiry into the work of Inspector General John Helgerson, who took the job in 2002 and has issued several critical reports, from the CIA's handling of intelligence leading up to Sept. 11, to its interrogation of terrorism suspects.
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CIA Calls for Inquiry of its Own Inspector General

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CIA Calls for Inquiry of its Own Inspector General

CIA Calls for Inquiry of its Own Inspector General

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

The CIA's internal watchdog is under scrutiny - by the CIA.

That's according to a story in today's New York Times. CIA Director Michael Hayden called for an unusual inquiry into the work of the agency's inspector general, John Helgerson. Since he took the post in 2002, Helgerson's office has investigated several controversial CIA programs, and his findings have not always been popular within the agency. Helgerson issued a scathing review of the CIA's actions leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and his office appears to have been wrapping up a review of the agency's rendition program.

Mark Mazzetti co-wrote the story for The New York Times and he joins me now. Welcome...

MARK MAZZETTI: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: ...to the program. And first, why exactly is Helgerson's office being investigated?

MAZZETTI: Well, there's been a lot of angst to anger within the CIA especially among the covert operatives about Helgerson's investigations into all the most controversial programs in the CIA - the secret detention interrogation program, renditions. And some of these I.G. investigations have been going on for several years, and there's a belief in the CIA that, to some extent, the inspector general's on somewhat of a witch hunt.

SIEGEL: And as for the CIA investigating the CIA's own inspector general, is there precedent for that sort of thing?

MAZZETTI: Not from anyone we spoke to for the story. When we heard this - heard about this and discussed this with several people, even a former inspector general said they'd never heard of this before. There's a general process you're supposed to go through if you want to look at the inspector general. But keeping it in house is - seems unprecedented.

SIEGEL: Is this a tough investigation that might result in either some censure or some discipline against I.G.?

MAZZETTI: Well, the CIA wants to point out that it's not an investigation. They push back on that term. They say it isn't a review inquiry. They are really saying it is not a big deal. They're not going after Helgerson; they're not looking to discipline him. It's still a little bit unclear exactly what they're going to be doing. We do believe that there's been some interviews set up of people in the I.G.'s office and what it ultimately would lead to is still a little unclear.

SIEGEL: What can you tell us about Mr. Helgerson, the inspector general of the agency?

MAZZETTI: He's been in the job for several years. He's a long-time CIA officer. I believe he was in the director of intelligence, which is the analyst corps. So he's been there awhile. By most accounts, very thorough. He takes his independent - the independence of his job very seriously. And he and his team of investigators are, by all accounts, not afraid to do some pretty deep investigations.

SIEGEL: But as you mentioned earlier, the suspicion among so many agency is of a witch hunt. That would imply that there's some people suspect some agenda on his part.

MAZZETTI: I think some people believe that the inspector general is - has it in for the operatives, specifically on these issues of detainee abuse, abuse of interrogations, renditions and that he believes that laws were broken and he wants to bring some charges against people. Now, there's also concern that the length of the investigation, some of these investigations have been going on for years, the operatives who are under investigation have to hire lawyers, they get very, you know, very high legal bills. So there's a lot of anger.

SIEGEL: Is there an element here of the operations people complaining about an intelligence guy before he became inspector? There's the agents complaining about the analyst saying, they don't understand the realities out there when we're doing our work.

MAZZETTI: That tension has existed at the CIA since its beginning. And the operatives - the guys on the field, the men and women in the field - are a tight-knit bunch and they do believe that the people back at headquarters don't understand what they have to do, the risks that they go through. And it's interesting, General Hayden, since he took over the job last year, has taken a number of steps to make the point that he's watching out for the operator.

SIEGEL: Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent for the New York Times. Thank you very much.

MAZZETTI: Thanks for having me.

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