Quayle: Secret Service Should Testify
Former veep sides with Starr in privilege dispute
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 15) -- Former Vice President Dan Quayle has weighed in on the side of Independent Counsel Ken Starr in the debate over whether Secret Service agents and officers should be immune from testifying before a Washington grand jury investigating President Bill Clinton's relationship with ex-intern Monica Lewinsky.
In a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, Quayle says the protective privilege that is being asserted by Secret Service personnel "diminishes the presidency."
"As a former protectee of Secret Service agents, I see
no problem with the principle that they -- like all federal agents -- can be called upon to aid federal criminal investigations," Quayle said.
Sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN the independent
counsel wants to call members of the Secret Service before the grand jury to
answer questions about Lewinsky's visits to the West Wing of the White House and the Oval Office.
On Thursday, Justice Department attorneys representing the Secret Service
argued before U.S. District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson that it is
essential that agents and officers not be compelled to testify for fear that
current and future protectees might not allow security personnel near enough to properly protect them.
Arguing before the court, Starr urged the judge not to allow the Secret
Service to, in effect, "make entirely new law." He also appeared to discount
the security concerns of the Secret Service, saying he was certain that "the
professionalism of the Secret Service will carry the day."
Sources familiar with the position of the Secret Service in the dispute tell CNN that Director Lewis Merletti told Starr and other independent counsel
staffers, in a February briefing, that should his agents be denied the
privilege, "we will lose a president of the United States to assassination" and that trust and confidence between the protective service and its protectees will be lost.
Quayle's letter to Reno challenges the trust assertion saying, "I am
dismayed by the suggestion that 'trust' depends on an exemption from aiding a criminal investigation. Frankly, I think that argument is nonsense."
Sources familiar with the sealed court filing earlier this spring by
Justice Department lawyers on behalf of the Secret Service say it included a letter of support for the protective privilege from Quayle's former boss, ex-President George Bush.