Row over FBI files rumbles on

Rupert Cornwell
Wednesday 26 June 1996 23:02

The Clinton White House official in the eye of the FBI files storm resigned yesterday, insisting nonetheless that the affair was just a bureaucratic blunder and not a sinister Democratic attempt to gather background dirt on Republican political opponents.

Testifying at heated, bitterly partisan Congressional hearings into what has become a major election year embarrassment for the Clinton campaign, Craig Livingstone, head of the White House personnel security office, said the request for confidential FBI background files in late 1993 on more than 400 people - including some prominent Republicans - had been an innocent mistake, based on outdated lists of White House pass-holders compiled by the Secret Service. He denied he had ever been asked for, or requested himself, any such list. "But I am tendering my resignation, effective immediately."

But his departure will not end the controversy, fuelled by new allegations that files on not 400, but 700 individuals were requested and received from the FBI. Furthermore, the files are said to have included IRS tax documents, whose possession by unauthorised individuals is a criminal offence.

Republicans insist that, at the very least, the affair shows flagrant ineptitude on the part of the White House, questioning how a political operative and former restaurant bouncer like Mr Livingstone could be put in charge of so sensitive a matter.

Secret Service officials, meanwhile, deny they provided out of date lists of Bush officials who had left office in January 1993.

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