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WASHINGTON — The White House’s argument that it didn’t know the
“scope and nature” of the Project X e-mail fiasco
until news broke in February is looking more and more threadbare.
A White House memo obtained by WorldNetDaily shows senior officials
there discussed a magazine article on the West Wing e-mail hole back in
In a Dec. 9, 1998, meeting, Northrop Grumman computer contractors
gave the officials a heads-up about the story, which appeared on
Insight magazine’s website the day
before. The report disclosed for the first time the Project X scandal.
Devere Patton, projects manager for the White House Office of
Administration, and Robert “Dale” Helms, head of White House
procurements, were among those White House officials who saw a copy of
the story, the White House memo says.
“Northrop Grumman read a portion of, and then provided to the
Government a hard copy of, an Insight article entitled ‘Looking for
Information in All the Wrong Place(sic),’ which was referenced in the
Drudge report,” wrote Northrop
Grumman project manager Joseph Vasta in the Dec. 11, 1998, memo.
Vasta sent a copy of the memo to Daniel “Tony” Barry, the White House
computer manager who is under investigation for allegedly filing a false
affidavit about the e-mail situation to a federal court seeking the
Though it quoted unnamed sources, the story revealed details about
the scope of the problem, including the fact that at least 100,000 White
House e-mails hadn’t been searched for compliance with subpoenas from
the court, Congress or the Office of Independent Counsel.
“It’s top secret and there’s going to be hell to pay if anyone finds
out about it,” Insight’s Paul Rodriguez quoted one source as saying
about Project X.
“They’re real nervous about this getting out,” another source said,
in part because many of the missing e-mails involve Monica Lewinsky.
At the time, Congress was weighing impeachment charges against
President Clinton and the White House was in a swarming defense.
The memo casts further doubt on White House officials’ claims that
they didn’t know the full story on Project X until they read about it in
the papers two months ago. Congress has demanded to know why, after
Northrop Grumman technicians discovered the gap in archiving more than
two years ago, the White House failed to alert the various investigative
bodies of the breakdown in document production.
In March 30 testimony, White House Counsel Beth Nolan, speaking for
Clinton, told Congress that they didn’t know the “scope and nature” of
the problem until they read about it in the Washington Times, Insight’s
sister publication. The Times story, which cited court affidavits filed
by former White House workers, ran Feb. 15.
Nolan swears she personally hadn’t heard anything about the problem
until it came up briefly at a Jan. 19 White House meeting on a separate
“I had no knowledge of it until the Jan. 19 briefing,” she testified.
Nolan replaced Charles Ruff as the White House’s top lawyer last
But she’s no newcomer to the White House. Nolan started working in
the White House as an associate counsel early in Clinton’s first term.
She was tasked in 1994 with vetting Clinton Cabinet appointees.
According to the December 1998 Insight article, Barry Toiv, a White
House spokesman at the time, checked with the White House Counsel’s
Office and confirmed that officials there knew about Project X details.
Toiv, who recently left the White House, has so far not been asked to
testify before Congress. Another House Government Reform Committee
hearing on the e-mail scandal has been scheduled for Thursday.
Sheryl Hall, a White House computer manager from 1992 to 1999, has
sworn in court affidavits that the White House tried to hide the trove
of e-mail from investigators as part of a “cover-up.”
Echoing Hall, Betty Lambuth, a former Northrop Grumman group leader,
has testified that high-level White House officials “stalled” and
“dragged their feet” in fixing the so-called archiving “glitch” and in
finding the omitted e-mail on back-up tapes.
The Insight column also hinted of a cover-up.
“The White House is busily and secretly undertaking a complicated
e-mail reconstruction effort, hoping to avoid raising the ire of any
panel that discovers the existence of this hoard of electronic
messages,” Rodriguez wrote in 1998. “So why hasn’t the White
House come clean and informed various panels and (then-Independent
Counsel Kenneth) Starr of the discovery?
“Insiders say there’s a lively debate going on involving a fair
amount of legal hair-splitting,” he explained. “Some folks in the West
Wing believe that unless re-subpoenaed, the White House doesn’t have a
duty to tell anyone about the irritating new batch of e-mails
discovered. Others aren’t so sure.”
Of course, the e-mail reconstruction effort never got off the ground,
thanks to White House foot-dragging. And investigators still don’t have
their potential evidence, although Nolan has promised it to them within
a minimum of six months.
All along, Northrop Grumman technicians pressed White House officials
for the OK to restore the e-mail.
Judging from their highlighting of the Insight article, they seemed
to have been worried about any suggestions they were part of a cover-up.
And the memo from their project manager appears to be an attempt to set
the record straight, as if to say “Don’t blame us, we tried to produce
In the Dec. 9, 1998, meeting with White House officials, “Northrop
Grumman re-emphasized that no actions on its part has been or will be
clandestine in any way,” Vasta asserted in his memo recounting the
meeting at which the article was passed out.