CIA Director John Deutch has refused to reinstate one of the security clearances of a former White House aide accused of having a role in exposing the identity of a CIA agent in Guatemala.
Richard Nuccio, a government expert on Cuba and Guatemala, lost his highest security clearance after he notified a member of Congress about the agent’s cover-up of two killings in Guatemala. One of the victims was an American.
In refusing to reinstate the security clearance, Deutch upheld the recommendation of a three-member panel he had appointed to review the issue. But Deutch went beyond the panel’s recommendation by ruling that Nuccio could reapply for his security clearance in a year.
Nuccio reacted sharply Friday to Deutch’s decision, saying it “places the CIA above the law and beyond the Constitution. According to Director Deutch, the Congress can only learn about those illegal activities of the CIA when and if the agency decides to disclose them.”
The case dates to Nuccio’s March 1995 decision to take his concerns about the paid agent, Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, to Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.
In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired last month, Nuccio said he was “being hounded out of government service by the CIA for telling Congress what it had a right to know.”
While the CIA had no comment Friday on the issue, an official said the agency cannot tolerate any deviations from its policy of maintaining secret the identity of its agents.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Nuccio retains his top secret security clearance. The CIA had stripped him of a higher clearance, known as the “sensitive compartmented information” clearance.
Nuccio served as special adviser to President Clinton on Cuba between May 1995 and April 1996. Since then, he has worked on Brazilian issues at the State Department. Department spokesman Nicholas Burns he believes Nuccio will be allowed to remain at State as long as he wishes. Nuccio declined to discuss his future plans.
In earlier comments, Nuccio said a search of secret government files disclosed that Alpirez oversaw the 1992 interrogation and debriefing of a captured Guatemalan guerrilla who was married to an American lawyer, Jennifer Harbury. The rebel leader was killed while in captivity.
The files debunked CIA claims that it knew nothing about the fate of the guerrilla - falsehoods that Nuccio said he passed to Harbury as she sought information about her missing husband.
Nuccio said he was unable to tell Harbury the truth because the files were classified. He later learned that Alpirez also was involved in the cover-up of the 1990 slaying of Michael Devine, an American innkeeper in rural Guatemala. At the time, he said he was urged by colleagues in government to do nothing that would antagonize the CIA.