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By Scott Park
© 2000, Human Events
A former career White House employee has charged the Clinton
administration with attempting to hide from congressional investigators
and the office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr the existence of
potentially incriminating White House e-mail messages.
The e-mail messages were hidden by a software glitch when the White
House computers were initially searched in response to congressional and
independent counsel subpoenas, said Sheryl Hall, onetime head of
computer operations in the Clinton White House. When the glitch was
discovered, says Hall, Clinton administration officials conspired to
prevent Congress from receiving the information.
The information that was withheld contained all the incoming e-mail
sent to White House figures over the sensitive two-year period from 1996
to 1998. This included messages to President Bill Clinton and his key
A government contractor who discovered the glitch searched the e-mail
data and believed it held damaging information relating to the Monica
Lewinsky investigation, Vice President Al Gore’s fundraising activities
and other Clinton scandals. E-mail messages sent between Lewinsky and
White House co-worker Ashley Raines were so raw that “it would make a
sailor blush,” Hall says the contractor told her.
To keep things quiet, Clinton operatives later falsely labeled all
the missing information “classified” and code-named the matter “Project
‘The Tripp treatment’
On Feb. 15, after the Washington Times originally broke the story,
President Bill Clinton denied withholding e-mails from Congress.
“I believe that we have complied with every request, and there have
been thousands. … There has never been an intentional effort to do
that, and I think that we are in full compliance. I believe we are,” the
“We always make a good-faith effort to respond to document requests
and we are happy to discuss any concerns people on the Hill and
elsewhere may have on these matters,” said White House spokesman Jim
Kennedy. Because of litigation arising from the incident, Kennedy
declined further comment on Hall’s allegations.
Hall was a civil service employee. In 1992, she moved to the White
House from the Department of the Navy to help modernize an outdated
computer system. After she questioned whether the vast new White House
computer database, or WHODB, that the Clintons were creating was
necessary, White House staff ostracized her. When Hall told
administration officials that the project rang warning bells for her,
because it could have inappropriate political applications, her duties
“They call it ‘The Tripp Treatment,’” she said. “I got ‘The Tripp
Treatment’ and this was long before anyone outside the White House had
heard of Linda Tripp.”
Despite the fact that she had no work to do, Hall still reported to
the White House and continued to speak regularly with her former
subordinates and with the Northrop-Grumman contractors who maintained
the White House computers. Northrop-Grumman had assigned a five-member
team to oversee Lotus, a computer program used for e-mails at the White
Hall says that in May 1998, a contractor told her that a large
database of incoming e-mail messages to the White House had not been
attached to the computer network that was searched to satisfy subpoenas.
The problem could have been easily fixed, but was not corrected until
six months later, in November 1998. This was during the height of
Starr’s investigation of the Lewinsky scandal.
Congress, she said, still has not had access to the withheld
Hall said the contractor told her that had some of the information
contained in the withheld e-mails been made public earlier, several of
the Clinton scandals would have ended differently.
“They obstructed justice by threatening contractors not to brief
administration officials [about the problem] before they testified” to
Congress, Hall charges.
‘Jail cell with your name on it’
In the days before White House computer expert Daniel Barry was to
testify before Congress about subpoenaed e-mails and Monica Lewinsky,
the Northrop-Grumman contractor with knowledge about the missing e-mails
was warned to keep Barry in the dark, Hall said.
“Another contractor with Northrop-Grumman was told by Mark Lindsay,
director of the White House Office of Administration, that Lindsay had
‘a jail cell’ with that contractor’s ‘name on it’ if he divulged any
information on Project X,” Hall stated.
“One of these contractors was told by administration official Laura
Crabtree that he would be fired if he told Daniel Barry, a Clinton White
House Office of Administration computer specialist, about Project X. At
that point, Barry was unaware of Project X, even though he was about to
testify in two days to Congress concerning White House e-mails and
Monica Lewinsky. As a result of Crabtree’s threat, Barry did not have
this relevant information about these 100,000 e-mails when he testified
to Congress,” said Hall.
What the White House did do was classify the information withheld
from Congress. The computer system on which the e-mails came into the
system was “open,” Hall said.
“The Clinton White House simply did not want the existence of these
‘lost’ e-mails publicly known — as they did not want to search them in
response to subpoenas and they did not want to have to explain to the
American public why e-mails had not been searched in the first place.
They thus ‘classified’ the e-mails improperly to keep them isolated and
secret from investigators,” Hall stated in a declaration submitted to a
federal court in Washington, D.C.
“Prior to 1996 this [computer system] wasn’t a classified
environment,” said Hall. “What logic did they have to classify this if
not to suppress it?”
“Public statements responding to recent press reports on this issue
by President Bill Clinton, Clinton White House Chief of Staff John
Podesta and Clinton White House Spokesman Jim Kennedy are false,” Hall
alleged in the sworn declaration. “There was no ‘good faith’ response,
nor full compliance by the Clinton White House in terms of e-mail
searches to subpoenas from Congress, Independent Counsels, the Justice
Department and plaintiffs in this case.”
Hall said she told lawyers for Independent Counsel Ken Starr about
the vast file of unreported e-mails, but they said it was outside the
scope of their investigation and did not pursue the information.
The figure used to describe the number of e-mails is 100,000, but
could be much, much higher, said Hall. That’s because that was only a
preliminary estimate by a contractor soon after the problem was
discovered. The contractor estimated there were at least 100,000
messages contained in the missing database, she said.
Northrop-Grumman declined to comment on the matter.
“We’re restricted from making any disclosures or comments by our
contract covering what’s called the Executive Office of the President,”
said corporate spokesman Jim Taft.
Bob Koch of Northrop-Grumman’s Information Technology division
referred questions to White House spokesman Jim Kennedy.
Mark Lindsay did not answer inquiries from Human Events. Human Events
was also unable to contact Laura Crabtree, now an employee at the
Department of Labor.
The Clintons’ technique for thwarting Congress was well known within
the White House, said Hall.
“The tactic is just to stall until they’re out of office. There’s no
accountability,” she said. When the White House Counsel’s Office
requested searches, they gave instructions to prevent a paper trail.
“You weren’t told to make copies [of information that met search
criteria from various subpoenas]. You’ve given all the evidence to the
Counsel’s Office. People were constantly told by the Counsel’s Office
don’t put anything in e-mail, come see and tell me what you find,” said
Hall. The message was: “Don’t document any of this.”
“They knew exactly what they were doing,” she said.
White House ‘thugs’
Hall said that Congress could easily search the missing materials by
seizing the tapes now and printing them. If Congress wants to hold
anyone accountable, it had better act quickly, said Hall, noting that
one six-month stretch of tapes had been overwritten because of “human
Congress has yet to give any sign it is pursuing the missing e-mails.
“You know that [White House political operatives] are thugs, but
you’d expect the Hill to do something about it,” said Hall.
“We haven’t done anything with it yet, but that’s not saying that’s
not on our radar screen,” said a spokesman for the Senate Government
Reform Committee chaired by Sen. Fred Thompson, R.-Tenn.
Mark Corallo, spokesman to House Government Reform Committee Chairman
Dan Burton, R.-Ind., said the committee was researching Hall’s