Did FRONTLINE's report on  Donald Smaltz's investigation and his defense of special prosecutors change your views on special prosecutors?


Thank you for your presentation last evening "Secrets of an Independant Counsel". Given the noise produced by political spin-doctors and the misguided tabloid presentations of most television on this general topic, I found your show very informative and eye opening. I have had a general feeling for some time that we were living in an era when one of our most basic democratic precepts - namely that we are a nation of laws not of men- was under life threatening attack. Your program helped me better articulate that vague feeling. If there is one principle that we as Republicans or Democrats, liberal or conservative should faithfully cling to and defend dispite the personal cost it is that precept. That central value is what separates our great, free nation from every tinpot dictatorship running amok worldwide. I am afraid that the those who appear to have sworn a blood oath to defend this administration till 'the last dog dies', have lost sight of this value. They very well may win the battle and loose the war. They may, by this blind loyalty to a very flawed politician, sacrafice any legitimacy they or their party have earned in our political system. In short, if this administration is willing to break the law and abuse our legal system and then take any action to cover it up, how can they or anyone blindly defending them ever be trusted to lead our nation again.

Thank you for your program. Please do not stop there. If those of us who can see the long term harm to all of our rights brought about by this type of behavior do not act to stop it, no one will.

Roger Helton
columbia, sc


Thank you for last night's broadcast. I've sort of half-ignored all the hoopla over Mr. Starr as mere overload on the whole subject of Clinton scandals, but now I see that an important tool for the public's check on Government is in real danger, mainly from emotional overreaction to a single catch phrase, it seems! I can't help wondering at the minds of people who complain that any "Independent Counsel" is "out of control." Common sense says that the office of "Independent Counsel" is by definition "out of control;" anything else would be oxymoronic! How can anyone be "independent" while under someone else's control?

In all their wisdom, I doubt that the framers of our Constitution could have envisioned the world we live in today, and the comparative speed and efficiency with which justice can be subverted. Were they here, I feel they'd agree that relying solely on the Congress, a large and cumbersome body, for checks against the Executive and Judicial branches is hopelessly slow and outdated. A truly independent counsel isn't the only answer, but IS an important tool. I appreciate your calling our attention to its potential loss, but I wish there were something we could do, other than react once that loss has happened. Voting is very important, but it's awfully slow in affecting such issues.

Hank Lay
huntsville, al


Dear Frontline' The program was much needed to counterbact the vicious crescendo put out by the attack dogs guarding the president.

It is clearly demonstrated that Democrats in Congress will go to any length to protect their power base. They are writing the book on the double standard and hypocrisy.

It confirmed my feeling that we need IC.

fort wayne, in


I feel there is a need for the special prosecutor. Because only the government can afford the time and costs to investigate the government.

The news media has the potential for checking on the abuse of power by government officials. However they have no power to prosecute.

Congress has the power to investigate, bring charges, and present to the justice department if violations have occurred. Unfortunately not all of the members have the stomach to do their jobs.

This is a program that should be shown numerous times so more people will get an idea of how much time and money have to be spent trying to find the real truth.

hammond, in


I found your presentation shallow and unbalanced, conveying a strong sense of sinister manuevering by the administration and feigned innocence by Mr. Smaltz. In fact, it did more to convince me that the statute that was established to investaigate high crimes during the Nixon administration has indeed failed, producing only witch-hunts that result in miniscule legal infringements at tremendous expense that have not really come near their true target: the President and his party. The political climate in Wash. is far too radical to give the statute a fair chance. Too many zealots -- particularly those on the "Far Right" -- are seeking to destroy their political enemies by allegations, smear tactics, exaggerations, and "spin" -- and by dominating the proces of selecting the independent counsel. As a result we get zealots like Smaltz and Starr who pursue their ends lacking simple decency and honesty and professing "high moral and legal purpose". It's no wonder their under attack.

The statute needs to be rewritten to diminish the influence of political zealotry. In the 60's the "Bleeding Liberals" distorted the political process, now its the "Far Right". a plague on both their houses. Retain the statute, rewritten, but let's return to simple decency and mutual respect. Vote the zealots out of office; conduct an HONEST investagation when necessary, and let's get on with the real business of the Nation.

Francis Scalzi
scottsdale, az


When Mr. Smaltz looked chocked up in front of the camera and confessed he genuinely feared for his family after being ambushed by the Justice department,. I was moved to tears myself. This is one of the most chilling accounts of official terror I have ever seen. You have an award winning investigative story. The question is will this go anywhere or will your investigative report suffer the same fate Smaltz's investigation has suffered? Will you continue the report?

How can anyone any longer consider Janet Reno as independent?

Richard Winmill
fillmore, ca


Thank you for your presentation; I found it to be thoughtful and enlightening. I am now convinced (and I thoroughly agree with the President and the Attorney General, as of early 1994, anyway) that there is an inherent need for the independent counsel statute. If we can't trust the government to investigate itself, then who will?!

The idea that Congress is an appropriate check on the executive branch in matters such as this is laughable. We need individuals who are not swayed by polls, who will search for the truth no matter what is said about them. How long would Republicans, in place of an independent counsel, have stood up to the Clinton juggernaut? Not very long. Could Democrats be trusted to investigate one of their own? If their actions so far are any indication, not likely.

It is obvious to me that the independent counsel statute is needed. Every last American should agree with Donald Smaltz, we should all be afraid of democratic governments exercising tyrannical power.

Matthew Emerson
san gabriel, ca


During previous administrations, the Independent Counsel law was attacked by Republicans, now it is criticized by Democrats... obviously the various OICs in operation must be doing something right.

Before the Frontline episode, I did not understand why Congress was not the investigative body instead of the OIC. When it was clear various Congressmen and Senators would defend Tyson or any other business under investigation, I understood why Congress cannot lead such inquiries.

Hopefully, this episode and further reporting will reveal what each OIC has fought. Now, I wonder if Starr might actually be looking into real crimes of which we might never learn. No one seems upset by Executive branch attacks on Starr, Smaltz, Walsh, et al...

Christopher Wyatt
visalia, ca


Your report on independent counsel made me sit up and take notice.

I have been only vaguely aware of the Espy case but your program made me appreciate independent investigation. Government (and television) are better for it.

Thank you for crafting such thoughtful and illuminating programs.

Sam Churchill
portland, or


Thank goodness for courageous people like Mr. Smaltz and Mr. Starr, not to mention the last handful of investigative journalists on the planet.

As an engineer, I've spent the last few weeks wondering why the justice department would attack a company like Microsoft. Could it be that they failed to put high ranking government officials on their "contribution list?"

Ruth Scott
san diego, ca


I was totally mesmerized by this program. This was really an eye opener and revealed the present mode of operation of this administration to obstruct this investigation and the Ken Starr investigation.

Hope others out there connected all the dots.

Keep up the excellent work.

Ann Mininger
santa maria, ca


All of this for baseball tickets? Give me a break. Smaltz's is the same kind of lunatic right wing fringe as Starr.

I wonder how many of your "right of Rush" follwers were outraged by Reagan's Iran Contra affair? How many were outraged by the same Reagan's deregulating Banks which resulted in the Savings and Loan debacle. How many were outraged at Bush's push to have taxpayer's bail out his banker son and other banker friends. And---why wasn't any of this investigated.

I rarely listen to PBS any more as you have gone the way of tabloid news. Few facts, lots of fiction. Lots of slanted questions

Donna Saunders
grass valley, ca


The value of the independant counsel is obvious. I thoroughly enjoyed you program. Ken Starr cannot pick his spot. I as a citizen acknowledge the corruption that exists in our government. It is paramount that the prosecuter concentrate on the initial task. your program proves my point dont spread yourself so thinly that you look ineffective in everything. I am sure thst Mr Starr has plenty of evidence he needs to take 5 steps back and establish his purpose. My concern is that his inability to focus could well be the end to the only fair non political observation of MY federal government.

John Fiskio
los angeles, ca


I am writing in response to your excellent program "Secrets of an Independent Counsel". There were several aspects of your report that I found quite troubling

The first was the vicious, partisan attempts at character assassination that Mr. Smaltz had to endure while trying to do the job entrusted to him of investigating the allegations that had been brought against Sec. Espy. In the United States we enjoy the Constitutional Right of free speech and I do not wish to inhibit that right, but in this instance, it seems that there was a well orchestrated attempt to interfere with the investigation by personally attacking this man.

Secondly, there was the clear abuse of power that was occurring in the Department of Agriculture. If the charges against Secretary Espy are true then he is not only was guilty of accepting illegal gratuities but of endangering the health of the American public and abusing a public trust.

Lastly and most troubling is the way the Department of Justice handled this entire matter. There seemed to be no interference from the DOJ with this investigation as long as it pertained only with the Mike Espy matter, but when potentially incriminating allegations were brought against Don Tyson, of Tyson foods, and President Clinton, a stone wall was immediately erected. I have always thought that it was the job of the DOJ to hunt down and prosecute lawbreakers. I find now that they may be guilty of hiding truth and shielding the very lawbreakers that they should be perusing. I am left with the feeling that the DOJ itself should be investigated.

My compliments to all those involved in this excellent report. I look forward to seeing more like it.

old saybrook, ct


Your "Secrets of an Independent Counsel" is one of the finest documentarys we have ever seen on the air. It is disturbingly true. Some of our country's leaders have become so morally and ethicly corrupt that is effecting the mode of the people. Programs like this should wake some of us up. I was jolted, and I have been disturbed about the events that have openly taken place to date. It will be interesting the to see the spin the Whitehouse and the Press will put on your report. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Ted Bare
spokane, wa


Some things are as simple as right and wrong. The collusion of the Clinton Administration,Justice Department and Tyson Foods to obstruct this investigation is clearly wrong. Although, the indictments brought against Mike Espy may not be for capitol crimes, 39 counts, including acceptance of gratuity is not chicken feed.

loma, co

home. donald smaltz & the espy case. office of the independent counsel. readings. discussion
synopsis. tapes & transcripts. press reactions
frontline online. wgbh. pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation