Senate Armed Services Committee
Hearing on the Nomination of Paul Wolfowitz
to be Deputy Secretary of Defense
February 27, 2001
SEN. WARNER: I have several more questions I wish to ask.
Speaking for myself, and I think others, we were shocked about this recent series of allegations regarding a long and trusted member of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the allegations of his sharing classified material with another nation. Also, regrettably, a person who preceded you in the office to which you aspire to serve this nation was a subject of a pardon recently by the president with regard to allegations about his handling of classified material.
As the chief operating officer, it seems to me, in consultation with the secretary of Defense and other persons in the administration, you should undertake a review of the Department of Defense with regard to the handling of classified material and the means by which to detect any violation of the regulations of the use of that material by employees at all levels of the Department.
Therefore, my question to you is how do you view the importance of classification, the responsibility that those entrusted with documents that are classified and how they should deal, not only in the safeguarding of that, but the sharing of that information? How do you intend to deal with that issue and what are your views with regard to classified material? I feel very strongly that the most rigid of rules should apply, and that when an individual is found to have violated and, subject to the appropriate legal actions that have to be reviewed to verify that violation -- whether it's a court case or whatever -- accountability of the strongest measures should be dealt. What are you views?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, I agree very strongly with you about that, Senator. And it's kind of shocking, the extent to which classified information frequently and with great speed, finds its way into public in one form or another. I do think we need to do everything we can to hold people accountable; to make it clear that we take this seriously. I know -- you know, any one of us has come across a classified document that we may have thought was overclassified, but that doesn't give you an individual right to take it on yourself -- (laughs) -- to declassify it or downgrade it. There are procedures for doing that and they should be stuck with.
You're talking about two very different things, and the second one is a -- the first one is a matter of treason.
And we clearly have got to look at what that whole Hanssen case tells us about our counterintelligence capabilities, which -- clearly we've missed two big ones in recent times, and think about how to protect ourselves from that kind of traitor.
On the more almost mundane matter of the day-to-day handling of classified materials, I think we lead by example. We've got be careful ourselves. We've got to take infractions seriously. And if we think that things are overclassified, then we need in an orderly way to take care of that problem, but not let individuals take it on themselves.
SEN. WARNER: Well, are you prepared to commit to this committee that if confirmed, that you will undertake, as one of your top priorities, a review of that subject within your department?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I will do so, Mr. Chairman.