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The Clinton administration has boasted about increasing protections and rewards
for government whistleblowers. This is exposed as empty rhetoric when the whistle is
blown on corruption and abuse within the administration.
The latest example is Linda Tripp. She was rewarded early in the administration
when she kept her mouth shut and supported the White House cover stories about the
still mysterious death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr. But
since she has become a key witness for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in his
investigation into the Monica Lewinsky and Kathleen Willey affairs, she has been the
target of fierce reprisals.
First, most of the attacks were ad hominem. She was called names. She was said to
be unreliable, untrustworthy, someone with a political agenda — all by an
administration responsible for promoting her from secretary to a coveted Pentagon
job paying $88,000 a year.
Now, the Department of Defense is investigating her for failing to disclose a
1969 arrest on her security-clearance forms. She was arrested in New York on a grand
larceny charge when she was 19 years old, accused of stealing $263 and a watch
valued at $600 from hotel rooms at the Lake Pond Inn in Greenwood Lake.
Tripp says she was “set up” and the charges were subsequently dropped. She also
says the judge told her there would be no record of the charge.
Let me ask you this: Do you think it is coincidental that Tripp’s background is
just now being investigated? She began work at the White House in 1987. She moved to
the Pentagon in 1994. During the past 11 years, she has been given raises,
promotions and security clearances. Nobody discovered the arrest in her background
during any of the background checks. Only now, when Linda Tripp represents a
political threat and thorn in the side of the White House does this 29-year-old
The arrest would not be an issue except for the fact that she denied any such
charges on a security-clearance application back in 1987. I think it is worth
pointing out that the form in question was not signed at the Pentagon, but at the
White House. Presumably, that’s where it remains. How convenient.
The story was broken in the New Yorker magazine. This administration has many
friends in the press. With the possible exceptions of Kathleen Willey and Kenneth
Starr, there is no one the administration would more like to discredit right now.
Such reprisals against whistleblowers are common within this administration. Just
look at the way the Pentagon has conducted a vendetta against the four military
forensics experts who have spoken out publicly in the strange death of Commerce
Secretary Ron Brown.
After blowing the whistle on the Pentagon’s cover-up of the suspicious hole in
Brown’s head, Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell went from being rated “the number
one forensic pathology consultant in the Department of Defense” to being labeled a
troublemaker, “disruptive” and “immature.”
After coming to Cogswell’s defense, Navy Chief Petty Officer Kathleen Janoski,
head of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology’s forensic photography unit, was
kicked out of her offices.
And, coincidentally, all four officers who criticized the AFIP for not insisting
on an autopsy for Brown — Cogswell, Janoski, Army Lt. Col. David Hause and Air
Force Maj. Thomas Parsons — were ordered to cancel their planned trips to the
American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference in San Francisco earlier this
month. Every other AFIP officer was allowed to attend.
This is serious business. It is further evidence of the way this administration
plays for keeps — especially when self-preservation is the motive.
The scary part is that it is all so transparent, yet the administration gets away
with it. Congress, the press and the special prosecutors would have tolerated no
such reprisals during the Watergate era. But, today, the Clinton administration can
brazenly tamper with evidence and harass witnesses with impunity.
It seems no matter how low this administration descends into scandal, somehow it
remains above suspicion. Key witnesses die, documents disappear, and bad things
happen to whistleblowers — none of it seems to matter.
If Linda Tripp, the subject of national news magazine cover stories and
front-page New York Times articles, isn’t safe from such dirty tricks, who is? If
something, God forbid, should happen to Kathleen Willey or Monica Lewinsky, would
there be a serious inquiry? I’m just not sure anymore. Clearly, there’s a price to
pay for taking on this administration.