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IS CIA CHIEF PLANNING TO PUNISH OFFICERS?

CIA Director R. James Woolsey has decided, after an internal investigation of the Aldrich Ames spy case, that senior officers who failed to recognize Ames' betrayals will be punished, officials familiar with his intentions say.

Those to be disciplined include retired CIA officers, according to officials who agreed to discuss the matter on condition they not be identified.Woolsey headed to Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon for a closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee to discuss the internal probe and spell out the disciplinary actions he is taking in response to the worst spy scandal in CIA history.

Congress has been pressing Woolsey to take bold reform steps. Last week a House-Senate conference committee approved legislation that, among other things, establishes a 17-member presidential commission to study the roles and missions of the U.S. intelligence agencies in light of post-Cold War security needs.

Ames, a career officer in the CIA's clandestine service, was arrested in February and admitted selling highly sensitive U.S. secrets to Moscow for more than eight years starting in 1985. He was paid more than $2 million. He pleaded guilty to espionage in April and was sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.

Woolsey himself has said Ames' betrayals might have been detected and stopped earlier but for a lack of management attention to his work performance. Ames at one time headed a branch of the CIA's Soviet and East European counterintelligence division, which allowed him to know identities of paid agents abroad.

Officials familiar with Woolsey's planned actions said Tuesday that retired agency officers who supervised or were otherwise associated with Ames during the late 1980s would not be spared in Woolsey's disciplinary moves.

It could not be learned which or how many retired officials would be faulted or what form of punishment would be imposed.

One official said that in addition to Woolsey disciplining an unspecified number of current senior officials and reassigning others, others have left the clandestine service.

"They saw the handwriting on the wall," he said.