THE PAPER TRAIL
JUNE 26, 1996
In its continuing investigation into the White House's handling of confidential FBI files, the House Government Oversight Committee questioned those staffers involved in the scandal. Kwame Holman reports on the contentious hearing followed by an Elizabeth Farnsworth conversation with two key committee members.
JUNE 20: The Senate Judiciary hearings on the release on classified FBI files to the Clinton Whitehouse began in Congress. Margaret Warner talks with two members of that committee, Senator Joe Biden, (D) Delaware, and Senator Charles Grassley, (R) Iowa.
JUNE 19: The House Government Reform and Oversight opened hearings on what the White House has called "a bureaucratic snafu" -- the request for the sensitive FBI files of officials from past Republican administrations.
JUNE 19: Jim Lehrer talks with the NewsHour's regular panel of regional commentators about the alleged "bureaucratic snafu" in the release of FBI files on Republican staffers to the Clinton White House.
JUNE 14: Margaret Warner is joined by two members of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Representatives James Moran (D) and Tom Davis (R), to look at the Whitehouse/FBI files case.
JUNE 12: The story of the White House and the FBI files. Jim Lehrer is joined by the NewsHour's panel of regional commentators.
JUNE 6: Evidence has cropped up that Clinton staff members ordered the FBI to investigate the fired employees of the White House travel office.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The former Clinton aides who were in a position to request those files went before a House Oversight Committee today. We begin our coverage with this report from Kwame Holman.
REP. WILLIAM CLINGER, Chair, Government Reform Committee: The members of the media, the photographers please to clear the well.
KWAME HOLMAN: Press interest in today's hearing was intense. Before he could begin, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman William Clinger had to demand order.
REP. CLINGER: The members of the media will clear the well immediately.
KWAME HOLMAN: Clinger then laid out the reasons Republicans called these hearings.
REP. CLINGER: For the past 30 years, the White House has engaged in a careful process of security clearances and background checks on individuals to determine their suitability and stability for positions at the White House and throughout the Executive Branch. The fact is, given the individuals who were put in charge of this office and the apparent lack of any supervision or control, we may never be able to determine what exactly was done with these files. But we do know that this White House had a history of amateur detectives rooting around for dirt long before the recent FBI file flap and long before we knew about Mr. Livingstone and Mr. Marceca.
KWAME HOLMAN: Craig Livingstone headed and Anthony Marceca worked in the White House Personnel Security Office. In 1993, Marceca used Standard Form 86 to request and obtain a total of 707 FBI background files, most those of former White House aides in the Reagan and Bush administrations. Several were those of prominent members such as James Baker, President Bush's Secretary of State, Reagan chief of staff Kenneth Duberstein, and former Bush national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Today Anthony Marceca explained why he requested the files.
ANTHONY MARCECA, Former White House Aide: At that time I had and to this day I continue to have a top secret security clearance. My primary task was to stay current with regards to SF-86s that had been filled out by new White House employees. A second task was to assist in staying current with other requests for access to the White House. The third task was the update project. And this third assignment at the Office of Personnel Security was to recreate personnel security files on employees and officials from the prior administration who continued in their position with the Clinton administration or who continued to have a legitimate need for access to the White House complex.
I did not seek to obtain a previous report on any person for any reason other than to create a current personnel security file for an individual whom I believed was properly included on the White House access list. When I obtained copies of the previous reports, I processed each one in accordance with the procedure I described above. I did not single out any person for special scrutiny or treat any person differently because of who he or she may have been.
KWAME HOLMAN: Marceca reported to Craig Livingstone, who has been on paid leave from the White House since shortly after the file controversy started two weeks ago. He testified that though he had nothing to do with requesting the FBI files, the days leading up to this hearing have been painful for him.
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE, Former Director, Personnel Security: As a result, I want to be the first to announce that I am tendering my resignation from the White House effective immediately. But I also want to make clear that neither I nor to my knowledge anyone else in the White House participated in any kind of smear campaign or an effort to compile an enemies list, as some have alleged or feared. It's just not true. Finally, I want to say something about me, Craig Livingstone. I have been described as a political operative, a beefy, former bar bouncer and henchman, who was supposedly engaged in all sorts of misconduct dating back almost 20 years. These are false and unfair caricatures of who I am. I am proud that I have personally participated in our democratic system of government, and I have worked hard for little or no pay in political campaigns for candidates who I felt would make this country a better place to live. And I am proud to have served in the Clinton administration.
KWAME HOLMAN: Lisa Wetzel also worked in the White House Security Office. She testified she was unconcerned about Marceca's obtaining the background files.
LISA WETZEL, Assistant to the Secretary of the Army: In looking at the labels on the files, I noticed many names that I did not recognize. The first name that jumped out at me was Marlin Fitzwater. I immediately concluded that Tony must have ordered previous reports for every person on whatever out of date Secret Service list he had been working from. As I reviewed the names on the labels, I also determined that Tony had accumulated many of the files that I did need. I was exasperated that I would now have to sort through a lot of useless files in order to pull out the ones I needed. At no time was I alarmed by what Tony had done. I thought he had simply made a mistake that I was going to have to clean up.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D) California: Do you understand the seriousness of testifying before a committee of the Congress under oath and that if you lie to us, you could be prosecuted for the crime of perjury? Do you all understand that?
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: Yes.
ANTHONY MARCECA: I do, sir.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Now, understanding that fact, you've all admitted there was a terrible mistake, a huge bureaucratic blunder. Do any of you at this witness table know whether any political use was made of the lists that were obtained from the FBI, whether there were any enemies lists compiled for political purposes, or whether any of this information was disseminated to anybody outside of the White House?
WILLIAM KENNEDY, Former White House Associate Counsel: Absolutely not, sir.
LISA WETZEL: No.
ANTHONY MARCECA: No, sir.
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: No, sir.
BERNARD NUSSBAUM: No, sir.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Committee Republicans pressed their point that the two men should never have been put in charge of handling the FBI files of prominent Republicans given their political work on behalf of Democrats.
REP. CLINGER: We understand, Mr. Livingstone, that you worked on Gary Hart's campaign in 1984, is that correct? Just yes or no.
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: Yes, sir.
REP. CLINGER: And did you work on the Mondale-Ferraro campaign in 1984?
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: Yes, sir.
REP. CLINGER: I believe you worked for Sen. Tim Wirth on his campaign transition and then in the Senate office?
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: Yes, sir.
REP. CLINGER: And I believe you also worked for Charlene Drew Jarvis, the District of Columbia?
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: Yes, sir.
REP. CLINGER: And also on the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992?
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: Yes, sir.
KWAME HOLMAN: Then the hearing became heated.
REP. DAN BURTON, (R) Indiana: If he was a political operative with this kind of a background, why would you give him access to FBI files on Republicans to the tune of 700? You get FBI background checks when you hire somebody for sensitive positions at the White House. I'm sure you would agree with that. Now, in that background check from the FBI, you found out or you already knew that he used numerous kinds of drugs in the past, No. 1, and No. 2, you would have found out that he was a political operative, and you would have found out about this, this foray into nefarious activities of other people during the Hart campaign. And if you found that out from those FBI reports, why would you put somebody like that in a position of sensitivity like he was in, who had access to getting as many as 700 files from the FBI?
WILLIAM KENNEDY, Former White House Associate Counsel: Congressman Burton, I am prohibited by the Privacy Act from commenting about anything in anybody's background. And, thus, I don't know the source of your allegations, but I cannot talk about the information that I know from reviewing anyone's background.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: We have had testimony here that what we have had is a serious bureaucratic blunder. I wouldn't want to minimize it in any way, but, Mr. Chairman, I don't think it ought to be blown out of all proportion. I'm appalled that a member of Congress who's protected by the Constitution from any liability for anything any of us say would start to go on an attack about somebody's prior presumed, maybe drug use or what somebody else said somewhere else about him. I just think that that is sheer McCarthyism.
REP. BURTON: Would the gentleman yield?
REP. WAXMAN: No, I won't.
REP. BURTON: It's in the report.
REP. WAXMAN: Let me further go on to say that this isn't a hearing to get to the bottom of this issue. This is a hearing to smear President Clinton and his administration, to be reckless with the truth for partisan purposes, and it's not worthy of this committee, Mr. Chairman, it's not worthy of this committee.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Craig Livingstone has admitted that he read some of the FBI files of current and former White House officials. Today Committee Republicans took him to task for it.
REP. PETER BLUTE, (R) Massachusetts: We've had numerous reports, some of which that you've talked about today, about you, uh, using or perusing FBI files of current or former--now former Clinton administration officials. The Wall Street Journal reports that several people also said that Mr. Livingstone sometimes went around the Old Executive Office Building complex saying that he had "inside information" about various people and matters. Is that something that happened or occurred during your tenure at the White House?
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: I believe, as I testified earlier, that I talked with a number of people in my physical capacity about information that I had in files. I think that it would be widely known that I have information on people's files because I reviewed the files.
REP. PETER BLUTE: Well, these reports seem to say that the White House officials who were speaking to these reporters were concerned about your use of this information and that you were using it in a cavalier fashion and not as, as part of your duty.
CRAIG LIVINGSTONE: As I believe I testified earlier, uh, without being able to look at my notes, but I believe that I testified earlier that on one occasion a Ms. Ellen Lieberman, uh, admonished me about being insensitive to a particular person about her background file.
KWAME HOLMAN: Late today, President Clinton said Livingstone was right to resign his White House job, calling the resignation "appropriate." Both House and Senate committees plan to continue their hearings into the FBI files.