• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

Kenneth Bacon, the Defense Department inspector who leaked
information from the private file of then-employee Linda Tripp to the
press, will not face prosecution for his actions, said Pentagon Deputy
Inspector General Donald Mancuso yesterday during a hearing of the
Senate Armed Services Committee — a development at least one committee
member calls a “cover-up.”

Bacon, a Wall Street Journal veteran, leaked information from Tripp’s
private Pentagon security file to New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer. Bacon
had worked with Mayer at the Journal 10 years earlier.

Though he openly admitted to the leak in 1998, expressing regret for
his actions, Bacon and his assistant, Clifford Bernath, will not face
criminal charges.

Justice Department spokesman John Russell confirmed that the decision
not to prosecute had been sent in a recent letter to the Pentagon
inspector general’s office, according to an Associated Press report
which said Russell would not elaborate.

Bacon is currently traveling with Defense Secretary William
Cohen
in the Middle East.

Defense Secretary William Cohen called the disclosure from
Tripp’s file “certainly inappropriate, if not illegal.”

At issue in the Tripp case was an apparent discrepancy on her
government security clearance form required for employment. On the form,
Tripp denied she had ever been arrested, when as a teen-ager in 1969 she
had been briefly detained by police.

Although the federal Privacy Act strictly prohibits the release of
information from employee files, Bacon provided that fact to the New
Yorker after the existence of Tripp’s recorded phone calls with Monica
Lewinsky became known.

Tripp’s recordings led ultimately to the impeachment of President
Clinton, and the former Pentagon employee has sued Bacon and the Defense
Department for privacy violations. The case is now two years old and
was given a boost last month when Federal District Judge Royce
Lamberth issued a ruling in which he declared Tripp’s rights had been
violated.

Cohen, reportedly angered by the leak, ordered an investigation into
the matter. The Pentagon inspector general’s office is expected to
release a report on that investigation — which has been withheld by the
Justice Department for more than a year and a half — soon after Bacon
and Bernath see the report and comment on it.

Sen. James Inhofe is outraged at an apparent Justice
Department “cover-up,” saying “someone should probably go to jail” for
violating Tripp’s privacy.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., a
member of the Armed Forces Committee, blasted the Clinton
administration’s handling of the investigation. Speaking at yesterday’s
hearing, Inhofe sharply questioned Mancuso on the status of the
two-year-old investigation.

“This a very serious matter that will not go away,” Inhofe said. “You
may not have done anything wrong. You may just be the fall guy,” he told
Mancuso, “but someone needs to be held accountable in this matter. The
law has been broken and there is clearly an ongoing cover-up. In
Watergate, people went to jail for these kinds of violations of the law.
Chuck Colson went to jail for leaking information from a private FBI
file. Someone should probably go to jail here.”

“Let me be clear,” Inhofe continued, “the reason this is important is
not partisan politics. There are hundreds of thousands of conscientious
non-political federal employees out there who are watching this. What
does it say to them — what does it say to citizens who want to serve in
government — that their most private confidential personnel file can be
leaked to the press in clear violation of the law, the perpetrators can
be caught, and yet nothing is done — no one is held accountable?”

Now that the Justice Department has
declined to prosecute, the report will go to Cohen for any action he
deems appropriate.

“The ball is now squarely in Secretary Cohen’s court,” Inhofe said.
“It is his job to ensure some semblance of justice in this case. Like in
so many other cases, the American people simply can no longer trust the
decisions of the Clinton administration’s sad excuse for a Department of
Justice.”


Related story:
Pentagon violated Tripp’s privacy

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.