House Panel Examines FBI Files Mess
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 19) -- A House committee began its probe today into how and why the White House obtained hundreds of sensitive FBI background files, some on prominent Republicans.
The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. William F. Clinger (R-Pa.), will question administration officials to determine what use, if any, was made of information in the files.
The White House has insisted it was a bureaucratic mistake and the information was not misused, and President Bill Clinton has apologized.
As the hearings got underway, Clinger suggested the White House had a greater concern about keeping private its own internal files than "the confidential background files of average, American citizens."
But Rep. Tom Lantos (D-California) said politics, not a search for the truth, was driving the Congressional Republicans.
"The president apologized, Leon Panetta apologized and what we have now is an attempt to drag out a political smear because the (Bob) Dole campaign is not getting off the ground," Lantos said.
Meanwhile, the FBI will resume its own probe of the file flap, after Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr decided on Tuesday that he had no jurisdiction to continue his inquiry. Based on that, Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the FBI to resume its work.
The FBI plans a preliminary criminal investigation, to determine whether a full probe is needed. White House press secretary Mike McCurry said, "We welcome and encourage an independent outside investigation that will get answers that need to be obtained."
And in still another development, the Clinton Administration has named a former Reagan administration official, Charles Easley, to oversee internal security.
White House counsel Jack Quinn, appearing on ABC-TV, said new rules will require that the person whose file is sought give permission before the White House can even ask the FBI for it.
Quinn was critical of Clinger's committee work, saying the Republican is more interested in "political point-making than an accommodation." Clinger, however, said the White House has continually rebuffed his attempts to get answers.
Some Republicans say they are skeptical that the FBI can conduct a truly independent investigation of the files mess, since it was involved. But last week, the FBI concluded it had sent files on at least 408 people to the White House in 1993 and 1994, without justification.
Campaigning in California, Republican Bob Dole told KERO he respects Reno, but in an election year, she should find "someone else" to conduct the investigation.
Craig Livingstone, the head of the White House personnel office that collected the files, was placed on administrative leave Monday evening, pending a White House review.
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