Senate Panel Looking At FBI Files Flap
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 20) -- As a Senate committee launched hearings into the FBI files flap, Attorney General Janet Reno said she will ask for an expansion of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr's jurisdiction to include the files controversy.
"I have concluded that it would constitute a conflict of interest for the Department of Justice itself to investigate a matter involving an interaction between the White House and the FBI, a component of the Department of Justice," Reno said in a statement.
Reno said Starr had agreed to accept the case, if the special court which appointed him approves her request, which is likely.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a Secret Service official contradicted a White House explanation on why the Clinton Administration sought the files. He said the Secret Service regularly updates its list of White House pass-holders, and he had no idea why the White House sought the background files on past employees.
Richard Miller said the Secret Service's database of 24,000 names is divided into two categories: people with access to the White House and those who no longer have access.
The key issue is why the White House sought the sensitive background files and what use, if any, officials made of the data. The White House has said it was an honest bureaucratic snafu.
For his part, President Bill Clinton tried to make light of the latest controvery in remarks to some visiting presidential scholars. "This has been sort of a crazy week around here," he said. "I was hoping that one of the scholars would explain chaos theory to me, and I could apply it to what I am trying to do."
Earlier this week, special prosecutor Starr said he did not have the jurisdiction to examine the file controversy, in addition to his ongoing Whitewater-related investigation. That prompted Reno to order the FBI to resume its preliminary criminalinvestigation.
At issue in the latest controversy to bedevil the Clinton Administration is how and why the White House obtained sensitive FBI background files on several hundred past employees, including Republicans from the Bush and Reagan administrations.
Congressional investigators want to determine whether the White House used sources other than the Secret Service list as a basis for its requests for the background files.
In an attempt to restore credibility, the White House this week appointed a new security chief, Charles Easley. He succeeds Craig Livingstone, who went on paid administrative leave pending a review of what happened.
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