DIA settles with former analyst in murky case

The Defense Intelligence Agency has settled a case with former analyst John Dullahan after his security clearance was revoked in 2009. The agency has not told Dullahan why he was locked out, effectively removing from his job, for which the clearance was required. It seems to have something to do with three polygraph tests he took after being selected to work on a classified program that required FBI-administered polygraph tests.

The Washington Post’s Checkpoint Washington blog has the story.

Dullahan was fired after apparently failing three polygraphs — each time, he believes, when he was asked if he had ever spied for the Soviet Union. He can’t be sure because the Pentagon said it would damage the national security to provide any reason for Dullahan’s firing, the first time in at least 15 years that it has used this provision of the law.

Dullahan denies any wrongdoing, and believes he may have failed because of nervousness during the unusually stringent polygraphs, which brought up an earlier, dismissed allegation of disloyalty.

His wife, who also works at DIA, thinks his failures may have originated in earlier accusations of Soviet sympathies.

In the 1980s, Dullahan served several tours in the Middle East as part of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, a multinational mission that also included Soviet officers. At the time, he was accused of inappropriate contact with the Soviets after he socialized with them on a couple of occasions. The charge was dismissed, but Dullahan’s wife, also a DIA official, believes he was scarred by the experience, and the memory of it affected his polygraph.

The settlement seems to be purely monetary, as Dullahan’s security clearance will not be reinstated.

Now, as part of a settlement, Dullahan will receive all back pay and benefits from the date of his termination, as well as $25,000 and attorney’s fees, according to his lawyer, Mark Zaid. Dullahan will formally retire from DIA at the end of the month.

These measures will certainly help the analyst on a personal level, but his professional reputation is still tarnished for reasons he doesn’t fully understand. The DIA was able to revoke his clearance without a stated reason citing national security. The Post’s original article, from Nov. 2010, explains:

On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, the government stripped the Irish-born Dullahan’s security clearance and fired him from his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency in a manner that has no precedent at the Pentagon – invoking a national security clause that states that it would harm the interests of the United States to inform him of the accusations against him.

The Checkpoint Washington story says the analyst plans to reapply for clearance through a contractor, and will likely sue (the story doesn’t say on what grounds) if he is denied.

It’s certainly a devastating blow to one man’s career, but it isn’t hard to understand the government erring on the side of caution. It seems the missing piece — DIA’s reasoning for revoking the clearance — is the one that would lay the issue to rest. Why won’t they go public?

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