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Kenneth Starr's state secrets

Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has closed the books on the investigation of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster’s death, he says.

He reached the same conclusion as his predecessor, Whitewater Special Counsel Robert Fiske, who found that Foster shot himself in Fort Marcy Park.

But not only does Starr refuse to release to the public his own report on the case, he refuses to turn over to news organizations material gathered to support Fiske’s report issued June 30, 1994 — more than three years ago.

While there might be some justification for withholding those documents from the public and press while an official investigation was still active, it challenges the imagination to figure out a rationale for the veil of secrecy over the Fiske documents. Starr doesn’t even bother to try. He has simply ordered his deputies to withhold the original data indefinitely.

Beginning on July 12, 1995, my organization, the Western Journalism Center, began the process of seeking 14 specific items related to Fiske’s investigation of Foster’s death. Under the Freedom of Information Act, we requested the following from Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel, which had inherited them from Fiske:

Predictably, Starr turned down our original request, citing the fact that his investigation was still under way. After he closed the case in August, we filed another FOIA request for the very same material.

But showing utter contempt for the very law he is sworn to uphold and enforce, Starr once again denied our request on the basis that the records were “compiled for law enforcement purposes, the release of which could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.” What enforcement? The case is closed! Is Starr planning on bringing charges against Foster for killing himself?

Furthermore, under law, if the Independent Counsel’s Office disputes that any of these documents are public, it is required to provide a detailed statement of the reasons for withholding them, index the material and provide a location of item. Starr’s office didn’t bother. Like those he is charged with investigating, he seems to believe he is above the law.

And maybe he’s right. After all, when you’re stonewalled by both the White House and the independent counsel supposedly investigating it, to whom do you turn?