Clinton seeks to defuse files controversy
Thursday 20 June 1996
The move came as Congress opened new hearings into what has been dubbed "Filegate" - the mystery over how and why White House political operatives in 1993 and 1994 sought and obtained confidential FBI background files on more than 400 people, some of them prominent Republicans, purportedly to "update lists" of people with access to the White House.
The new security chief will be Charles Easley, a Reagan-era appointee picked to avoid the slightest hint of partisanship. As a further safeguard, the White House said, anyone whose file could be needed will henceforth have to give written consent before it can even be requested from the FBI.
But this latest exercise in damage control had little impact on Capitol Hill where a Republican-controlled House Committee began hearings into the incident, tailored to cause maximum election year discomfort for the Clinton camp.
"Was this part of a larger pattern to compromise the FBI," thundered the committee chairman, William Clinger of Pennsylvania, as he opened proceedings, "or part of an all-too-familiar pattern of incompetence and incredibly misman- aged record-keeping
The latter, insists President Bill Clinton, who has described the incident as a "straightforward bureaucratic snafu". However, subsequent revelations cast doubt on that assertion. Far from being a petty bureaucrat, Craig Livingstone, the official who sought the files, was a battle-hardened Clinton campaign operative. Anthony Marceca, the aide who actually obtained them, transpires to have been not a humble Pentagon clerk on temporary secondment - as the White House said initially - but also a lifelong Democratic Party worker.
To the intense relief of the White House, the fiasco will not be coming under the scrutiny of the Whitewater special counsel, Kenneth Starr, who told the Justice Department this week that he lacked jurisdiction to carry out the investigation.
Far more than raucous Republicans on Capitol Hill, or the continuing fuss over the sacking of the White House travel office in 1993, it is Mr Starr's relentless digging in Little Rock and Washington that poses the real threat to the Clintons: possible criminal charges against several of their close aides and, in the very worst case, indictment of the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, for perjury or obstruction of justice.
Only yesterday for instance, Bruce Lindsey, one of the President's closest advisers and treasurer of his 1990 gubernatorial campaign in Arkansas, was named an indicted co-conspirator in the case Mr Starr is bringing in Little Rock against two smalltown bankers charged with illegally channelling $13,000 into that campaign.
None the less, the files affair could prove more than just another campaign year flap. The intricacies of Whitewater proper may surpass most mortal understanding, but misuse of confidential FBI information is all too easy to understand, for generations of Americans summoning the ghosts of Richard Nixon, Watergate and "dirty tricks" past. Once again the spotlight has been turned on the "character" question.
Leading article, page 15
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
- 4 Jozef Wesołowski: Former Catholic archbishop found dead ahead of child sexual abuse trial
Spain accused of 'provocation' after letting Russian submarine refuel off Gibraltar
Allonautilus scrobiculatus: World's 'rarest' creature spotted for only the third time ever
Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...