- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2000

'Tis I

"I, me, I will run the department, not the fiefdoms that existed in the past."

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, testifying alone at a House Science Committee hearing last year, ironically titled in the wake of what are now two missing computer hard drives crammed with U.S. nuclear codes "Security at the Department of Energy: Who's Protecting the Nation's Secrets?"

Under control

Asked yesterday if there's a broader problem the Clinton administration has to grapple with on protecting electronically housed government secrets, such as those missing from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart replied:

"No, I think there's I think if you look at, for instance, a situation where there was a virus out I don't know about a month ago or so, that attacked, you know, government, business, you know, all sorts of organizations, the government did quite well. That doesn't mean that we've got this problem solved, by any means."

Minority advantage

Conventioneers attending the 2000 Democratic National Convention will be provided with a "Directory of Minority, Woman, and Disabled-Owned Businesses," should they be in need of products or services during their visit to Los Angeles this summer.

Wouldn't you know, Inside the Beltway has learned that the list was released by two prominent minority women: Lydia Camarillo, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, and Noelia Rodriguez, CEO of LA Convention 2000.

Wasted crop

Word on Capitol Hill is Sen. Blanche Lincoln, the Arkansas Democrat who traveled to Cuba last week with the hope of lifting the U.S. trade embargo, has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to allow her to keep two boxes of cigars autographed for her by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

As for the contents 50 prized but illegal Cohibas, valued at upwards of $1,000 on the black market the senator says she'll turn them over to the secretary of the Senate, a lucky guy named Gary Sisco.

We immediately began sniffing around the office of Mr. Sisco yesterday, until such time as the secretary's secretary, Amy, told us Mr. Sisco would probably forward Fidel's finest to Diane Skvarla, the Senate's curator, who probably doesn't even own a humidor.

As for Mrs. Lincoln, she says she "felt it would be inappropriate to turn down" Mr. Castro's cigars, especially since "refusal of such gift would cause offense or embarrassment."

Queen for a day

Even the five-diamond-rated Four Seasons Hotel in Washington which deals every day with royalty, heads of state and diplomats can use a periodic refresher in protocol.

That's why the grand dame of manners, protocol/etiquette guru Letitia Baldrige social secretary to President John F. Kennedy is checking into the hotel this morning to quiz managers on all levels on the proper points of protocol.

Quit laughing

"You can pretty much guess how successful this effort has been. With the exception of a few minor candidates, all [is] quiet on the western front," Peter Robbins tells Inside the Beltway, referring to his request that the various presidential candidates participate in "Campaign Watch 2000."

Sounds legitimate enough. So what's the problem?

"Although it's time that our presidential candidates wake up to the fact that a growing number of Americans take this subject very seriously, the battle to lend the subject of UFOs some legitimacy is still very much an uphill one," he explains.

For the past 20-plus years, unidentified flying objects have been Mr. Robbins' research specialty. And in no way, shape or form has he ever suggested these flying discs are steered by little green men.

"We take no position concerning the reality of this phenomenon, nor the truth behind any of the numerous points of view concerning this issue," he says. "My concern here is not with aliens, spaceships, or the alleged crash at Roswell [in New Mexico]. It is with the excessive secrecy with which this subject has been treated for more than 50 years" by the U.S. government.

Here's the questions Mr. Robbins can't get Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush to answer:

1) As president, would you offer executive amnesty for credible UFO witnesses in our military and intelligence communities?

2) As president, would you be willing to order the declassification of UFO-related records and documents held by the government?

Unfortunately for Mr. Robbins, who is also the editor in chief of UFOcity.com, two senators on record as willing to support or sponsor a grant of congressional immunity for credible officials with knowledge of UFO matters are both retiring this year: Democratic Sens. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.

Then again, there's always Hillary Rodham Clinton to pick up where Mr. Moynihan leaves off, should she win his seat.

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