WHEN Deputy Secretary of Defense John M. Deutch was being confirmed by the Senate as CIA director in 1995, he said he was determined to restore the agency's credibility with the public.
That role may now be more suited to the Justice Department.
The department should investigate Mr. Deutsch's alleged security lapses as thoroughly -- but not as ineptly -- as it did comparable lapses by Wen Ho Lee, a career computer scientist at Los Alamos laboratory. Mr. Lee sat in solitary confinement for nine months under 24-hour lighting; he was accused of leaking secrets to a foreign power or job-seeking abroad. Mr. Deutch was deprived of CIA clearance in April, with no further action taken by the Justice Department. It was later revealed that he had committed similar breaches when he was undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology.
Mr. Lee downloaded secrets onto his workplace computer, from which he made tapes -- seven of which have vanished. Mr. Deutch downloaded secrets onto computers at his home on which he also maintained a commercial e-mail account. Nobody has accused Mr. Deutch of being a spy.
Many Chinese-Americans have suggested that the Taiwan-born Mr. Lee was found guilty of being Chinese. So has Senate Majority Leader Tent Lott, a Mississippi Republican.
Some may wonder whether Senator Lott has found Mr. Deutch guilty of being a Democratic officeholder. The chemist has been in a revolving door career between Democratic administrations and academic institutions since the Kennedy adminstration.
One thing the public does not know is how widespread such downloading is, which might help determine what intent may be presumed from any instance of it. It is not clear the Justice Department or Congress knows, either.
The Justice Department must investigate Mr. Deutch and learn why he did what he did, the same as Mr. Lee. Congress should investigate whether security safeguards are adequate, reasonable, enforceable and enforced.
When Mr. Deutch said in 1995 that the CIA's credibility needed to be restored, he was right.