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Foster planned date with wife

Posted By Paul Sperry On 09/13/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Lending credence to complaints of a botched investigation, former
Special Counsel Robert Fiske never seized nor even tried to seize
Vincent Foster’s computer as evidence after the deputy White House
counsel died unexpectedly in 1993, WorldNetDaily has learned.

As a result, Foster’s hard drive became a hot potato inside the White
House, bouncing from one official’s hands to another’s — breaking the
chain of custody over and over, before finally, last week, ending up
where it has belonged all along — in the hands of investigators,
according to former White House officials who are finally talking
publicly about what they know about the Foster case.

Only now are agents for the latest independent counsel, Robert Ray,
trying to look at all the files, deleted and undeleted, on what appears
to be Foster’s hard drive. They’re also trying to interview former White
House officials who handled the drive, including Jim “Mack” MacDonald,
the computer division chief whose story has gone untold — until now.

Ray has yet to rule on Whitewater and the alleged obstruction part of
the Foster case. He will give a summary of his findings on the first
couple’s shady Ozark investment and the Foster aspect “within the next
couple of weeks,” said Keith Ausbrook, a senior counsel in Ray’s office
here. He said the investigation at this point is “still open.”

Foster handled the first couple’s Whitewater tax returns just before he
died, calling it a “can of worms.” Top aides for both Clintons
frantically searched his office the night he died. One took an armful of
file folders to the first lady’s office, a uniformed Secret Service
agent has testified.

One of the computer files reveals that Foster and his wife planned to go
out the same night he was found dead in Fort Marcy Park, according to a
White House whistleblower who has read the file and recently turned over
evidence to Ray under subpoena. The former computer specialist is
scheduled to testify about Foster before a federal grand jury on
Thursday.

Critics of the handling of the Foster investigation say the initial
failure to secure and search Foster’s computer further undercuts claims
that the circumstances surrounding his shocking death were thoroughly
investigated.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all, because he (Fiske) didn’t do an
investigation,” said Accuracy in Media Chairman Reed Irvine.

He points to a Wall Street Journal article suggesting Fiske was ready to
rubberstamp the U.S. Park Police’s findings in the Spring of 1994 –
before he’d explored all the evidence, judging from subsequent dates of
FBI “302″ interviews of witnesses and dates of lab work.

Asked about it, Fiske admits he failed to confiscate Foster’s computer.

“We did not physically take the computer,” Fiske said through a
spokeswoman in his New York law firm. “But we had the FBI download all
the relevant information from his computer and his secretary’s.”

Such downloading, however, would have missed any deleted files, computer
experts say.

Not until Fiske’s successor, Kenneth Starr, took over the investigation
in August 1994 — a year after Foster’s death — did authorities become
interested in seizing Foster’s computer, MacDonald says. Ray’s
investigators recently contacted MacDonald at his Los Angeles office.

But Starr, who ruled Foster’s death a suicide devoid of foul play, never
took possession of the computer.

MacDonald, former director of the White House’s Information Systems and
Technology division, says FBI agents paid him a visit at his New
Executive Office Building office in the summer of 1994.

“It was embarrassing for them to ask (for Foster’s computer),” he
recalled. “I mean, they had no idea where this thing was.”

He says the agents later interviewed him at length about it at FBI
headquarters.

“There were a lot of guys in there,” MacDonald told WorldNetDaily in an
exclusive interview. “And they were pretty embarrassed.”

“Why the FBI didn’t pick it up originally, I have no damn idea,” he
said. “It should have been picked up within hours of his death.”

MacDonald added: “It was pretty ridiculous to me that the FBI would come
back almost a year later. I mean, the chain of custody is corrupted.”

An inventory check by MacDonald showed Foster’s computer missing at the
time. It was supposed to be in his old West Wing office. So agents went
away empty-handed.

But that’s hardly the end of the story.

Several months later, MacDonald says he stumbled on the
central-processing unit, or CPU, of Foster’s computer while in a meeting
in an office on the 2nd Floor of the Old Executive Office Building.

He says he spotted it on the floor and asked, “Whose PC is that?” No one
knew, he says, so he checked it out.

“When I picked it up and looked at the serial number, I about fell over,
because it was the Foster serial number we’d been looking for,”
MacDonald said. “I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue and carried it over to
the Data Center on the 4th Floor in the NEOB.”

He says he wrapped it in plastic, affixed a label to it — “FOSTER PC” —
and placed it in a tall, wheeled cabinet on the north wall near the VAX
mainframes. He says he then locked the cabinet doors.

“I quarantined it, shrink-wrapped it and put it in the Data Center,”
MacDonald said. “And I told all my managers what it was, and that it
needs to be kept there until someone asks for it.”

Why didn’t he call the FBI to come pick it up?

He claims that he thought that, by then, the investigation was over, and
no one was interested in the computer anymore.

But he admitted that he also was nervous about “finding something I
wasn’t supposed to find,” and crossing Clinton appointees trying to
control political damage from scandals. (MacDonald, though a life-long
Democrat and Clinton-Gore booster, was a holdover from the Bush White
House.)

A White House employee, however, has sworn that MacDonald was more than
just nervous.

“After Vincent Foster died, I received a call from Jim MacDonald, who
wanted me to meet him outside to go for a ride with him. During that
ride, Mr. MacDonald informed me that he had found Vincent Foster’s
computer,” said Howard “Chip” Sparks in a June 19 federal court
affidavit. Sparks, a White House computer network specialist, worked for
MacDonald.

“In the wake of the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mr. Foster’s
death, Mr. MacDonald was extremely upset by his discovery,” Sparks
added. “And he told me that he was concerned that he would be killed
because of what he had found.”

Asked about it, MacDonald downplayed Sparks’ account, insisting: “I
didn’t think someone would shoot me.”

On Aug. 8, MacDonald says he got a call from Larry Bagley, an
investigator in Ray’s office. Bagley would not comment on the call.
Shortly after, MacDonald says he got a call from Jim Wright, White House
data center operations branch chief, asking about Foster’s CPU.

“Jimmy called me recently, saying, ‘Where’s that PC?’” MacDonald said.

He says he told Wright, “it’s in the Data Center in a locked cabinet in
the back of the room, shrink-wrapped, where I left it. It should be
there.”

But according to another of MacDonald’s former employees, that’s not the
full story. In fact, he’s left out critical parts, she says.

Enter Sheryl Hall, another whistleblower from the White House computer
division.

She says that, yes, Foster’s CPU did migrate from his West Wing office,
where it stayed for about six months after he died, to the Old Executive
Office Building and then to the New Executive Office Building.

But at that point, Foster’s hard drive was removed from the CPU and
wound up in MacDonald’s office, then in another official’s office,
before finally ending up in Hall’s own home, she now confides.

It was Hall, slapped with a subpoena, who just turned over the hard
drive to the independent counsel.

Hall last week also turned over notes — a pile about an inch thick, she
says — documenting the dates and times Foster’s equipment was moved,
and the dates and times his office called the computer help desk with
requests for technical assistance. Hall was the help-desk branch chief
at the time.

MacDonald also says he turned over a copy of the notes, something he
says was kept in a three-ring binder. But Hall says MacDonald gave his
copy of what she put together for him in the binder to White
House lawyers, who apparently never turned it over to Starr’s
investigators.

“They (Ray’s investigators) said they’d never seen it,” Hall said. “They
were clearly surprised.”

Here is Hall’s version of what happened.

Shortly after finding Foster’s CPU, Hall says MacDonald asked her to tap
one of her technicians, Dorothy “Dottie” Crumling, to run a software
program to break into some of Foster’s password-protected files.

The exercise worked. She says they were able to read one file that
revealed Foster and his wife had plans for the night of July 20, 1993 —
the day he was found dead.

“One of the files referred to an engagement to go out that evening with
his wife,” Hall said.

Later in 1994, Hall says MacDonald had a former White House computer
contractor, Mike Saunders, remove the hard drive from Foster’s CPU.
MacDonald kept it in his
office, she says.

“It was on Mack’s desk,” she said.

Neither Crumling, still in the White House, nor Saunders, who works for
McLean, Va.-based PRC Litton Inc., could be reached for comment.

When MacDonald left the White House the next year, he gave the hard
drive to Jurg Hochuli, who was the Office of Administration finance
director, Hall says.

“Jurg had it on a bookshelf behind his desk,” she said.

Hall came into possession of the hard drive after she says MacDonald,
who hired her, called her and asked her to pick it up from Hochuli, who
transferred to the State Department. He now works there under former top
Clinton aide Patsy Thomasson.

“Mack called me from California and told me to get it,” Hall said. “I’ve
often wondered why he did it.”

Hall took the hard drive home. A few years ago, she says, Starr’s
investigators interviewed her about the White House phone records. Hall
at one time was in charge of the PBX system there, too. And Foster’s
computer got brought up.

Hall says she later agreed to give senior counsel Jay Apperson half of
the hard drive (her husband split up the disks). She held back half of
it for “insurance,” saying she didn’t trust Starr.

Now Ray’s office has the whole drive. And Hall has been subpoenaed to
testify before a grand jury.

She says she was granted immunity from prosecution for taking possession
of the Foster hard drive in exchange for the evidence and her testimony.
She demanded her husband also be granted immunity before she’d
cooperate. Don Hall, a computer contractor, took the hard drive apart.

It’s not immediately clear, however, if the hard drive is still readable
or even Foster’s.

If it is Foster’s, it may have been erased or “wiped clean.” If it has
been erased, or reformatted, FBI experts in computer evidence, using
special software and hardware, can still recover files from it.

But wiping a hard disk, which involves running a software process that
writes a series of 0s and 1s over characters in text files, renders it
unreadable.

Ausbrook wouldn’t comment on the hard drive other than to say, “We’ll go
wherever the evidence is. If that’s where it is, that’s where we’ll go.”

Pressed to say whether they’ve come up with any new leads in the Foster
case, Ausbrook said: “You’ll just have to wait and see what the
conclusions are (in Ray’s coming statement) on the Foster score.”

MacDonald says he doubts that Foster’s drive was “scrubbed,” or erased,
a standard White House procedure when employees leave the White House or
move to another desk in the White House.

But if it was scrubbed, it should have first been copied on a back-up
cartridge, he says, and stored in the NEOB. Ray’s office has asked Hall
about it. A federal judge has already subpoenaed any such cartridge for
Foster in a $90 million class-action Filegate suit filed by Judicial
Watch Inc.

MacDonald, however, speculates investigators won’t find a lot of files,
deleted or undeleted, on Foster’s drive. He says there are signs Foster
didn’t use his computer much.

He says that when then-PRC contractor Bob Haas, who worked under
Saunders, set up Foster’s e-mail account in early 1993, he had trouble
running a phone line from the wall to the computer on Foster’s cluttered
desk.

“His PC was buried with paperwork,” MacDonald explained, “and Haas had
to dig into the paper.”

Also, he claims, Foster never used his “All-in-1″ e-mail account — not
once.

Related stories:


Vince Foster haunts Hillary?


Foster death report sees professional ‘hit’


Altered evidence in Foster death?


Vince Foster’s death: An FBI cover-up?


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