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WASHINGTON — When it comes to holding the president accountable for
rank corruption, you can count on one hand the number of authority
figures who have ignored the polls and their Washington Post reviews and
done the right thing.
One who stands out is U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth. He’s been a
lone, jagged rock in the confluence of Clinton scandals.
But even rocks’ edges smooth, round out and eventually conform to the
In the critical Filegate lawsuit, Lamberth may have set plaintiffs up
to fail by narrowing the terms
Judicial Watch can use to search the White House’s computerized archives for relevant e-mail.
All sorts of potentially incriminating evidence could be missed because the judge, bending to meet the White House’s demands, severely restricted the search parameters.
Then there’s his ruling — or lack thereof — regarding the unarchived White House e-mail.
Lamberth trusted the White House when it said it would expedite a search of emergency back-up tapes for subpoenaed e-mail that mysteriously escaped archives for two years.
That was about 17 weeks ago. Now the White House is telling the judge it’s anyone’s guess when the e-mail will be ready for review.
It’s too busy copying the original tapes to search just yet. Huh? The White House claims searching the originals risks breaking the tapes.
But information-technology managers from Compaq and Microsoft tell me that the White House, as usual, is full of it. They’d have to run the tapes literally thousands of times before breakage even becomes an issue. Computer tapes rarely even jam, let alone break.
It appears to be just another delaying tactic. It’s also a golden opportunity to tamper with evidence — and with the court’s blessing, since Lamberth has OK’d the copying project. Look at what happened to the Zip disk original that stored the reams of Lewinsky e-mail. The White House tried to copy it. Now it’s corrupted.
Lamberth long ago should have issued a warrant to seize the e-mail server back-up tapes and the cartridge copies of departed White House officials’ hard drives, which also have been under subpoena.
He should have sent U.S. Marshals in there instead of trusting White House and Justice lawyers to safeguard evidence.
Watergate Judge John Scirica went into the White House and seized the Nixon tapes and still lost 18 minutes of them. How much evidence will Lamberth lose waiting for a more crooked White House to turn over evidence?
He already can count out ever seeing 13 months of Vice President Al Gore’s e-mails. They’re not even on back-up tapes. And he can forget about at least six month’s worth of West Wing e-mail. A 1997 tape was overwritten.
Former White House computer manager Sheryl Hall pleaded with Lamberth in a recent sworn affidavit that a White House employee told her Clinton appointees were planning to erase hard-drive cartridges with a magnetic device.
How much more funny business before Lamberth acts?
A half-baked investigation of this ilk is always worse than no investigation at all, because it raises a level of expectation among the media and the public.
When it falls short — and it will at this rate — the White House and its friends in the media will say, “See, nothing there, after all. Just a lot of smoke.”
As soon as that happens, no one will dare to reopen the investigation. All hope of justice will be lost.
And Filegate, which involves chilling charges of Gestapo tactics, is too important a case to suffer that fate.
It also involves a candidate for U.S. Senate. Hillary Clinton is a defendant in the suit. Her testimony is key to the case.
Yet Lamberth for the past year has balked at Judicial Watch’s motions to depose her.
Having said that, Lamberth — who hardly has the wind at his back like Scirica — is the only one in the judiciary allowing any sunlight on these scandals. And that by itself is worthy of praise.
But he should go further and take control of the tapes, putting them in the custody of an independent party.
The longer he waits, the longer the White House’s army of lawyers has to come up with more subterfuge. They’re already burying understaffed Judicial Watch in paper. Meanwhile, the evidence trail thins.
The clock is ticking, judge. The public’s already lost its patience. When will you lose yours?