Though Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has closed his investigation into the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster, he is still refusing to honor a Freedom of Information Act request for records associated with an earlier probe by saying their release might “interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
In a letter to Joseph Farah, executive director of the Western Journalism Center, dated Sept. 24, Jackie M. Bennett Jr., deputy independent counsel, denies the center’s appeal of an earlier decision to withhold 14 specific items related to Special Counsel Robert Fiske’s investigation, which concluded June 30, 1994, with the issuance of a report on the death. Several weeks ago, Starr announced publicly that his investigation has concluded Foster killed himself in Fort Marcy Park, yet he has refused to release the report to the public or press.
“In light of the fact that this office’s report regarding the death of Vincent W. Foster Jr. has not been publicly released, and that this office’s investigation of activities at the White House following his death remains open and active, the records you have requested must be withheld,” said Bennett’s letter.
Farah was critical of the finding.
“Starr wants to have his cake and eat it, too,” said Farah. “He tells the public the case is closed – it’s an open-and-shut case of suicide. But, for the purposes of secreting his work from scrutiny, he maintains the case is technically still open.”
Farah said most of the documents requested have nothing to do with activities at the White House following Foster’s death. The 14 items include:
All available photographic scene evidence (or access to such photos for visual inspection;
All autopsy photos;
Copies of all notations made on the back of photographs, including U.S. Park Police originals and copies made by the FBI;
All reports, chain-of-custody analysis and other written materials relating to those photos;
FBI lab reports on Foster’s blood work, detailing all screens tested;
Any notes of agents who participated in the excavation of Fort Marcy Park on April 4 and 5, 1994;
All notes made by FBI agents assigned to the Fiske investigation that were used in the preparation of interview statements (302s) that have been publicly released;
All notes by FBI agents assigned to the Fiske investigation and used for the preparation of the interview statement of Police Officer Franz Ferstl, as well as any handwritten notes, diagrams or maps provided by the officer;
Interview statements or any information concerning Foster provided by David Hale;
Any and all documents relating to the analysis, description and investigation of carpet fibers found on Foster’s body as noted in the Fiske report;
All Foster’s telephone records, logs and messages from June 1, 1993, through July 20, 1993;
All interview statements completed by the FBI relating to the activities in Foster’s office after his death – especially, the removal of papers;
Documents of radio and phone records (including mobile phones) or calls made by the U.S. Park Police on July 20, 1993, relating to Foster’s death;
Documents relating to any investigation of the condition and servicing of the Northern Virginia deputy medical examiner’s X-ray machine, said to be inoperable on July 21, 1993.
“With only one exception, all of our document requests have to do with the investigation of Foster’s death, not the cover-up activities in the White House,” said Farah. “Starr has no legal cover to deny us these public records in a case Fiske closed in 1994 and Starr declared closed, once again, several weeks ago.”
Farah also criticized Starr’s office for failing to provide, as the law requires, a detailed statement of the reasons for withholding each item, indexing the materials and providing the location of each.
“Starr has more in common with President Clinton than most people think,” said Farah. “Both of them believe they are above the law and that the people need to be shielded from the truth.”