- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2000

The independent counsel's office and two congressional committees yesterday opened investigations into accusations by a former White House aide that the administration hid thousands of e-mail messages concerning "Filegate," Monica Lewinsky, and Chinese and other campaign finance abuses.

President Clinton, responding to a report in The Washington Times on the accusations of Sheryl L. Hall, former White House manager of computer operations, denied any wrongdoing, saying he believed the administration had "complied with every request."

"If the American people knew how much of their money we'd have to spend complying with requests for e-mails, they might be quite amazed, but we certainly have done our best to do that," he told reporters during a White House meeting about security on the World Wide Web.

"There has never been an intentional effort to do that, and I think that we are in full compliance. I believe we are. That's what [White House Chief of Staff John] Podesta told me right before we came out," he said.

According to lawyers and others close to the matter, investigators have centered on accusations that the e-mail messages were not delivered under subpoena to a federal grand jury and three congressional committees as required by law.

Investigators want to know whether White House officials obstructed justice and concealed the documents, the sources said.

"The White House assured us they had given us everything, and we assumed that was true," said a senior Senate investigator involved in the probe of suspected Chinese involvement in the 1996 election. "But maybe it wasn't. We are looking into it again and will try to determine if we need to proceed in a new direction."

House Government Reform Committee spokesman Mark Corallo confirmed that the panel has begun an investigation into the accusations, saying committee lawyers have had "problems from the very beginning getting documents from the White House."

"If it turns out we don't have everything, that will be a problem," he said. "We are looking into this, and we intend to ensure that we get all the documents relevant to our ongoing campaign finance investigation."

Keith Ausbrook, senior legal adviser to independent counsel Robert W. Ray, declined comment on what actions if any his office has taken on the Hall accusations.

But lawyers familiar with the Ray probe, although not assigned to the independent counsel's office, said Mrs. Hall already had been contacted by investigators.

Mrs. Hall told The Times this week that White House officials failed to surrender the e-mail messages to the grand jury or the committees for a period covering August 1996 to November 1998.

Instead, she said, the White House listed the messages as "classified" documents to delay the probe into 2001 after Mr. Clinton leaves office.

She said contractors working at the White House discovered a computer glitch in May 1998 showing that 100,000 White House e-mail messages involving nearly 500 computer users had not been turned over as part of a search to comply with subpoenas from the grand jury and the committees.

Mrs. Hall, who now heads computer operations at the Treasury Department, said the glitch was found when contractors Northrup Grumman Corp. traced a programming error on a White House server to August 1996.

The error involved e-mail messages to and from 464 White House computer users. The problem was fixed in November 1998, she said.

She said the missing messages were discovered when the contractors found that one of four White House Lotus Notes e-mail servers handling the mail for the 464 White House computer users had been mislabeled and that a search of e-mail under the subpoenas was incomplete.

Mrs. Hall said e-mail from that server was not properly managed for a two-year period meaning the messages were not collected by the mainframe computer during the subpoena-record search.

She said when the contractors advised the White House of the problem, they were warned not to discuss it and told the documents had been classified.

"In fact," she said, "a White House official told one of the contractors they had a jail cell with his name on it if he discussed the matter."

Mrs. Hall said at least 4,000 of the e-mail messages involved or were related to Miss Lewinsky, the former White House intern with whom the president has admitted having an affair.

She said others concerned the White House's receiving secret FBI files on former Reagan and Bush administration officials; information on the selection of corporate executives for overseas trade trips; and messages concerning campaign finance activities in the 1996 election.

Mrs. Hall, assigned to the White House in October 1992 from the Naval Sea Systems Command, left after being demoted for questioning the propriety of the administration's use of a database for political purposes.

She has filed a lawsuit in the case, accusing first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and nine White House political appointees of job harassment and reprisals for her complaints.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington by Judicial Watch, a public-interest law firm.

The White House e-mail had been sought under subpoena by a federal grand jury, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Government Reform Committee. The messages also were sought by Judicial Watch in separate pending suits involving Filegate and "Chinagate."

In her suit, Mrs. Hall said the first lady oversaw the political misuse of the White House Office Database (WHODB).

She said she was abused at Mrs. Clinton's behest after voicing objections to using career White House employees and the WHODB system for illegal political activities.

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