Intelligence Community Job Requirements: No, They Don’t Just Trust You

Security Clearance

All members of the intelligence community (IC) are now filing financial disclosure forms for counterintelligence purposes. This is in addition to those required by the Office of Government Ethics (Form 278) for those in lofty positions. Have you ever wondered why this came to pass? It wasn’t always required.

The financial disclosure form and the regular counterintelligence polygraph are relatively new requirements. We can thank Aldrich Ames (CIA) and Robert Hanssen (FBI) for bringing these lovely jewels into our lives. Neither was ever required to file a financial disclosure form during their careers.

Shortly after Ames’ arrest, then Director Woolsey went public on his plan to ensure CIA employees filed a financial disclosure form to identify “moles” earlier. And just like that, the age of “Counterintelligence by Jaguar” was born.

Ames’ personal cash flow did not align with his income and expected level of living. He drove expensive vehicles, lived in an expensive house and maintained an expensive lifestyle, all of which pointed to an unidentified source of income.

Now thanks to Ames, everyone who had saved their pennies and purchased a luxury vehicle, bought a house in an affluent neighborhood, or had expensive tastes would have their assets reviewed, along with those who lived month to month. The CIA has plenty of both.

But this requirement was only new for the rank and file of the CIA. Those in the most senior positions have long been required to comply with the OGE requirement. In the recently declassified archives within the CIA, we find a memo from March 1989 discussing the need to file SF-278 addressed to all SIS (Senior Intelligence Service) officers. Now, the financial disclosure forms would serve both ethics and counterintelligence.

The Value of the Counterintelligence Polygraph

Hanssen for his part drove home the value of the counterintelligence polygraph. Though the polygraph was not instrumental in identifying Ames, the fact that the FBI for years eschewed the polygraph obviated its utility in discovering his years of espionage.

Indeed, former FBI Director Louis Freeh was against polygraph tests. Freeh is described in Adrian Havill’s book, “The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Cold: The Secret Life of FBI Double Agent Robert Hanssen”, as believing the polygraph was only 86 percent accurate. He was quoted as saying “Removing someone from a position based on a polygraph can ruin a career, even if the test turns out to be a false positive.”

Freeh was and is absolutely correct. The polygraph does give false positives resulting in career ruination and can be defeated.

It was nonetheless ironic, that Freeh’s statement was made only a few days after Robert Hanssen had been arrested for espionage and it became known that Hanssen had never taken a polygraph in his twenty-five year career. Havill goes on to describe how weeks after Hanssen’s arrest, hundreds of FBI personnel were subjected to polygraphs, mostly from the counterintelligence ranks within the FBI.

When you file your financial disclosure form and show up for your counterintelligence polygraph, you can thank Ames and Hanssen for the joy you experience.

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).