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More signs of obstruction as judge nears decision

Posted By Paul Sperry On 03/30/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

WASHINGTON — As a federal judge moves to rule on a Justice
Department motion to delay turning over subpoenaed White House e-mail to
his court, suspicions are growing on Capitol Hill that the White House
may have obstructed justice by destroying e-mail evidence.

In little-noticed testimony, a former White House computer contractor
told Congress that someone in the White House in effect erased nearly
six months of e-mail files that were stored on back-up tapes.

Betty Lambuth, a former Northrop Grumman e-mail systems technician,
said that she reviewed tapes from an unarchived White House e-mail server
and found an alarmingly long gap. It starts as early as June 1997 and
ends in November 1997.

“There was six months of back-up tapes of e-mail that were
overwritten,” said Lambuth, who said she investigated after being tipped
off about the gap by someone in the White House. “I don’t know why it
was done.”

Curiously, the period covers the full length of the Chinagate
hearings conducted by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. They
began in July 1997 and ran, on and off, until October 1997.

The coincidence has caught the attention of Senate investigators, who
had a tough time prying subpoenaed records and videotapes from the White
House during their probe of 1996 Clinton-Gore fund-raising abuses.

A Senate staffer said the panel views the matter as “very serious.”

In another development, WorldNetDaily has learned that the White
House had e-mails systematically deleted from staffers’ computers in the
heat of the Monica
Lewinsky scandal.

According to House Government Reform Committee investigators, the
White House staff was ordered to delete their old e-mail in 1998.

The order seemed routine enough. Large organizations running local
area networks regularly ask their users to dump files to free up disk
space.

Only, the White House order came June 11, 1998 — the day before a
new computer contractor was scheduled to train on the White House e-mail
system. On June 12, she and another Northrop Grumman contractor found an
archiving “glitch” in the server used by top White House officials.

Because of a miscoded server, e-mails sent to top White House
officials from outside the network hadn’t been scanned for subpoena
searches for two years. They immediately told White House officials
about the crisis.

But instead of being praised for the heads-up, they were enlisted in
an intense damage-control effort.

When they came back to work on Monday, June 15, they and other White
House e-mail contractors were called into a meeting with high-ranking
White House officials and told to keep the “sensitive” problem secret.
Three have said under oath they were threatened with jail if they
talked.

As it happens, the problem had already been hushed up for the
previous six months. A White House computer official had stumbled on the
same problem while doing a records search of the server in January 1998.

The official, Tony Barry, ran the problem up the chain of command.
His incident report made it to the White House counsel’s office, which
is tasked with complying with subpoenas.

Yet the e-mail still went uncollected for nearly the rest of the
year. Contractors didn’t “stop the bleeding” until November 1998.

But they never archived the missing e-mail. To this day, Congress,
the independent counsel and the watchdog group Judicial Watch Inc. have
been denied evidence potentially relevant to several investigations.

What’s worse, the White House never informed the investigative bodies
of the gap in evidence.

Several weeks ago a U.S. District Court gave the White House a
deadline to turn over the missing e-mail to Judicial Watch as part of its $90 million Filegate
lawsuit.

But on the day of the deadline, Attorney General Janet Reno’s
campaign-finance task force stepped in and asked the court for a delay.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth today will hear arguments, in his
chambers, from the Justice Department lawyers to see if there’s any
merit to delaying the suit.

Did White House officials engage in a cover-up? Some contractors
assert they did.

They “dragged their feet” in fixing the problem and telling Congress,
said Lambuth, the Northrop Grumman contractors’ team leader back then.

She testified she couldn’t get meetings with political appointees to
figure out ways to solve the problem.

“The intent was to stall this whole process,” charged Lambuth, who’s
no longer working in the White House.

She added: “It became obvious that they weren’t going to release any
of this information that had been found.”

She’s not alone. Lambuth’s former boss, who wasn’t exactly her
biggest booster, also swore that officials were trying to deep-six the
problem.

“They did try to cover up the fact they had a computer glitch and
(that) it involved the president and Lewinsky,” said Steve Hawkins, the
Northrop Grumman program manager at the time.

Hawkins, who has also left the White House, named Mark Lindsay as one
of the officials who tried to cover up the problem. At the time, Lindsay
was general counsel for the White House Office of Administration. He’s
now Clinton’s director of management and administration.

The contractors’ testimony alarmed Hill officials, who say it has the
makings of an obstruction case and may lead to dragging higher-ups in
the White House before
Congress to explain their actions under oath.

“Did they (White House officials) threaten and intimidate people to
keep quiet?” said House Government Reform Committee spokesman Mark
Corallo.

“And who in the White House OK’d all this. Who said, ‘Sit on this,
keep your mouths shut’ — and not just to the contractors, but to other
people in the White House who know about this.”

He pointed out that memos show Clinton’s then-deputy chief of staff
John Podesta was kept posted about the problem in 1998. So was Clinton’s
top lawyer, Charles Ruff.

“Within a few days (of discovering the problem), John Podesta sure
knew. And Chuck Ruff knew. So if these guys know, who gave the orders to
keep quiet?” Corallo said. “Guys like Mark Lindsay don’t have that kind
of authority.”

The Senate panel looking into Chinagate is equally suspicious, given
the revelation of a gap in the only back-up tapes to 1997 e-mail coming
in from sources outside the White House, and possibly the country.

“If any tapes were overwritten deliberately to hide their contents
from Congress, then the committee would regard that as a very serious
problem,” said a Senate staffer. “If any tape were overwritten
accidentally or routinely, the issue would instead be how forthcoming
the White House had been to Congress upon hearing about these problems.”

The Senate voted to give the panel the go-ahead to probe the 1996
fund-raising abuses in March 1997. Lawyers and investigators, including
FBI agents, were drafted and subpoenas flew.

But dozens of witnesses fled the country before the hearings kicked
off that July. A number of others took the Fifth.

One of those who fled was Clinton-Gore fund-raiser Yah Lin “Charlie”
Trie. But not before he got a suspicious set of records from the White
House.

On May 5, 1997, Trie received a FedEx package weighing about two
pounds from the White House Office of Administration — the same unit in
charge of the White House e-mail system. Lindsay was its general counsel
at the time.

FBI agents watching Trie’s trash in Little Rock, Ark., noticed a
flurry of document shredding around that time. They asked Reno for a
search warrant, but were turned down for four months, they told Sen.
Fred Thompson’s panel last year.

Hill investigators say that, even if a back-up tape has been
overwritten, there are still ways to see the original data. The problem
that remains is getting custody of the reels of tapes from the White
House.

The White House declined to answer specific questions about the
e-mail scandal. It says it’s referring reporters to the testimony that’s
scheduled to be given today by White House counsel Beth Nolan.

“This is the position of the White House,” said White House spokesman
Mark Kitchens.

“I’m not going to get into it,” he told WorldNetDaily. “These
questions will just lead to more questions. We’re just not going to do
that (answer them).”



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