State Official's Lonely Battle

November 25, 1996

State Official's Lonely Battle

Richard Nuccio has an unusual propensity for speaking out. But perhaps that is the result of the CIA's unusual interest in him.

Nuccio, senior adviser to the assistant Secretary of State for inter-American affairs, took the unusual step of appearing on "60 Minutes" recently to combat the CIA's efforts to revoke his security clearance, in effect making it impossible to do his job.

According to The Washington Post, in 1993 and 1994 Nuccio told Jennifier Harbury, the American wife of a missing Guatemalan guerilla leader, that the U.S. government had no information about her husband's disappearance. But in the summer of 1994, Nuccio learned that the U.S. government did in fact have documents linking a Guatemalan officer on the CIA payroll to the death of the guerilla leader and another American, although the evidence of wrong-doing on the part of the CIA-paid officer was not conclusive.

After agonizing over what to do with the information, Nuccio took it to Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., who, as a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was cleared to receive classified material -- but only through authorized channels. Torricelli released the information to the media -- which, Nuccio says, came as a surprise to him.

After an investigation, Nuccio received a letter of reprimand from the State Department. But in September the CIA revoked Mr. Nuccio's security clearance. The agency says he improperly briefed Torricelli, failed to tell State Department officials of the congressman's intention to go public, and provided classified information to reporters himself.

CIA Director John Deutch said Nuccio could appeal the ruling to a special three-member panel appointed by the agency. Nuccio, while conceding he made an "error in judgment" in releasing the material to Torricelli, says he won't be able to get a fair hearing before a Deutch-appointed group. There is "no timetable" for the panel to meet, a CIA official told the Post.

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