WASHINGTON — A White House official threatened to punish contractors
with “the full weight of the government” if they talked about missing
West Wing e-mails under subpoena, a computer contractor testified
yesterday in federal court.
Northrop Grumman e-mail expert Robert Haas shed more light on what
took place during a controversial June 1998 meeting between contractors
and White House officials over gaps in e-mail records.
The meeting is central to fact-finding hearings in a federal lawsuit
against the White House, as well as to two criminal probes into charges
officials hid evidence from investigators.
Prosecutors are trying to establish if, in fact, the White House
threatened the workers as part of an alleged “cover-up.”
Haas said that during the June 15, 1998, meeting a top Clinton aide
told him and four other Northrop Grumman workers the e-mail crisis was
“top secret.” At the time, Congress and Independent Counsel Kenneth
Starr were subpoenaing White House e-mail.
Haas said White House official Mark Lindsay announced over a
speakerphone that they could “not tell our wives or anyone.”
Lindsay denies even implying they should keep it a secret.
Nonetheless, Congress and investigators were kept in the dark about the
“Project X” problem for nearly two years, although a former White House
computer manager says she briefed a House lawyer about it in November
The White House has put Lindsay in charge of monitoring a
court-ordered search for the missing e-mail, one that’s been hamstrung
by technical setbacks and delays over the past four months.
Haas, a nine-year White House veteran, said Lindsay’s order was
jarring. He says it was the first time in his marriage anyone had told
him not to talk to his wife.
After Lindsay hung up, his confidant Laura Crabtree Callahan put a
sharper point on the warning, Haas says. She said they’d not only lose
their jobs if they talked, but also go to jail.
He said she told the non-government technicians that the White House
would use “the full weight of government to make sure we never work in
government or this town again,” Haas recalled.
What’s more, Haas said she told him “there will be a jail cell with
your name on it.”
He said he was sure Callahan, a former White House computer program
manager, was speaking for Lindsay. He didn’t say if Lindsay made
Sandi Golas, another Northrop Grumman contractor, testified earlier
yesterday that she couldn’t remember if the jail threat was made before
or after Lindsay got off the speakerphone. A third contractor also
recalls hearing the jail threat.
Callahan denies making any threats. She said Haas must have an
“overactive imagination.” Lindsay denies suggesting disciplinary action
of any kind.
But Haas says the “jail cell” remark was so clear it made his “head
Haas is a key witness because he was tasked with sampling some of the
unrecorded Monica Lewinsky e-mail to get an idea of their volume. And
other White House workers swear he told them he eyeballed some of the
more sensitive e-mails in the unarchived trove. They say he read
messages related to Filegate, Chinagate and other White House scandals.
Not so, Haas testified. He said he didn’t even “skim them,” claiming
he couldn’t if he wanted to because he could only read headers and not
the text from the computer “view” he was searching in.
As a Lotus Notes systems administrator, however, Haas had passcode
access to the affected e-mail server and could have opened files, and no
one would have known.
Former White House computer manager Sheryl Hall swears Haas not only
peeked into non-Monica files, but kept some of the “secret files” on his
Judicial Watch Chairman Larry Klayman, the lead litigator in the
class-action Filegate suit, insinuated that Haas, who still works in the
White House, was not being candid out of fear for his job. He noted that
lawyers for the White House met with Haas before his testimony,
ostensibly to coach him.
Haas swears he’s not afraid. But well-placed White House sources say
privately that Haas fears the White House will strip him of his security
clearance if he admits snooping in other e-mail files.
Also, sources say Haas recently worried aloud that he’s afraid
operatives will try to seize his home computer along with his expanded
storage Zip drive.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the hearings
into the threats and other signs of obstruction.
Judicial Watch claims the White House is stalling the production of
e-mails past the election. It has asked Lamberth to turn the search
project over to Ontrack Data International Inc., which has proved in a
court demonstration that it can do the job 25 times faster.
Earlier this year, when the Project X scandal broke, the White House
passed up a speedier proposal from Ontrack — one of the best
data-recovery outfits in the business — so it could award the contract
to a small, inexperienced minority vendor.
Then, in a March meeting, the White House matched the green
contractor with a subcontractor stacked with former White House
officials who figure prominently in
Project X, as first reported in WorldNetDaily.
Federal rules prohibit the government from picking a prime
contractor’s subs. They also prevent it from entering into contracting
deals where there’s so much as an “appearance” of a conflict.
Terry Misich, the Army detailee the White House put in charge of
managing the project, admitted in an earlier hearing that the prime
contractor, ECS Technology Inc., does not have much computer-forensics
experience. He also acknowledged that subcontractor SRA International
Inc. employs two ex-Clinton appointees tied to the e-mail fiasco.
After the last round of hearings, lawyers for the White House
announced Misich will be stepping down as project manager “for personal