A group of former government leaders tapped to review FBI security policies will meet for the first time next month, according to a notice published in the Federal Register
Tuesday. Earlier this month, Attorney General John Ashcroft authorized the creation of a commission to study security policies for sensitive and classified information at the FBI. The commission, which will be chaired by William H. Webster, former director of the FBI and CIA, includes seven former government leaders and one designated federal officer. The commission will review the quality of the FBI's current security policies and programs and recommend how the agency can improve its handling of classified information. Members of the commission include: William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration; former Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash.; and Carla Hills, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Ford administration. The commission will receive administrative support from the Justice Department and funding from the FBI. According to the Justice Department, the commission will need about $1.2 million to cover its costs. The commission must complete its work by March 31, but the Justice Department can extend its term, according to the group's charter. All of the commission's meetings will be closed to the public to protect sensitive information and the safety of intelligence personnel, according to a July 16 memo from the Justice Department. "The potential release of this information could seriously jeopardize the integrity of our internal security programs and of ongoing intelligence and counterintelligence investigations," wrote Janis Sposate, acting assistant attorney general for administration at Justice, in the memo. In July, Justice and FBI officials revealed that more than 400 weapons and 180 laptop computers--including some holding sensitive and classified information--were missing from the agency. The FBI has faced harsh criticism
over the last few months, most notably for its failure to turn over all documents to lawyers for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a controversy that resulted in a temporary postponement of McVeigh's execution. The consulting firm Arthur Andersen LLP is currently conducting a review of the FBI's management practices, including recordkeeping, technology and human resources issues.