Pentagon Admits Release Of Private Tripp Info
GOP calls for Ken Bacon's firing
By Jamie McIntyre/CNN
WASHINGTON (May 22) -- The Pentagon's chief spokesman, Ken Bacon, has admitted he released information from the personnel file of Linda Tripp, the woman who says Monica Lewinsky told her of an affair with President Bill Clinton. That admission has prompted accusations of political foul play from critics of the president, and calls for Bacon's dismissal by some Republicans.
The controversy over Tripp's personnel records began in March while Tripp's allegations that Lewinsky confessed an affair with Clinton to her were still front-page news. The New Yorker magazine came to the Pentagon with a story that Tripp, a Pentagon employee, had been arrested as a teenager and may have failed to volunteer that on her security clearance form.
On Bacon's orders, the Pentagon confirmed Tripp did not mention the arrest on the form. Bacon, a Clinton Administration political employee, now admits it might have been a mistake. "In retrospect, I'm sorry that the incident occurred," Bacon said. "I'm sorry I did not check with our lawyers or check with Linda Tripp's lawyers about this."
The admission came only after Bacon was questioned under oath by lawyers for a conservative legal foundation, seeking to portray the release as a political move aimed at discrediting Clinton's primary accuser.
Bacon did not inform his boss, Defense Secretary William Cohen, of the release to the New Yorker. When asked about the leak at a National Press Club speech, March 17, Cohen said, "Frankly, it's a surprise to me. I was not aware of it. It's a surprise to a lot of people. It's now under administrative inquiry."
Republican critics are calling for Bacon to be fired.
Jim Nicholson, the Republican National Committee chairman, said in a statement, "In 1992 President Clinton vowed he would fire anyone abusing the files in the State Department. President Clinton should keep his word and fire Bacon for violating the Privacy Act."
But Bacon insists he did not leak Tripp's personnel file. He claims he simply exercised his authority to release one fact from it. "I want to be clear here that nobody at DOD [Department of Defense] released Linda Tripp's personnel file," he said. "The issue here is whether it was appropriate to answer a reporter's question about how Linda Tripp answered one question about a matter of public record."
Bacon also insists the White House was not behind the decision. "Absolutely not," he said. "That's been one of the major misconceptions -- I think, mischievous misconceptions -- about this."
Some legal experts say Bacon may not have broken the law, even if he was wrong to release information from Tripp's personnel file, because as a spokesman he is authorized to make those decisions.