- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 17, 2000

Noble: Rep. Dan Burton, for promising to pursue criminal referrals on Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Upholding the rule of law in adverse circumstances is possibly the noblest thing we can expect from our elected officials. Indiana Republican Rep. Dan Burton has promised to do just that as soon as Attorney General Janet Reno and her friends leave office and thereby release their death grip on lady justice.

Mr. Burton's promise comes on the heels of a campaign-finance scandal involving illegal foreign money paying for the 1996 re-election efforts of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. That scandal has been hard to nail down, because Miss Reno has acted more like a general bent on protecting her leader than an attorney general interested in the rule of law. Bits and pieces of this scandal have been surfacing for years.

Many facts make it clear that Messrs. Clinton and Gore knowingly raised foreign money to finance their campaign. Former Justice official Charles LaBella told Miss Reno that such a scandal required the appointment of a special counsel because it was a clear conflict of interest for the attorney general. Miss Reno refused.

Specifically, Mr. Burton would conduct a lengthy investigation and hand down criminal referrals to the next Justice Department. Those referrals would recommend that Messrs. Clinton and Gore be criminally indicted for seeking money from the Chinese, among other contributors. Those referrals will have to await the election of George W. Bush, however. The current crop of lawyers running the Justice Department have proven that they are not interested in revealing this administration's wrongdoing.

Hopefully, Mr. Burton will get his chance and the next attorney general will have the courage to investigate all illegal actions, even if the perpetrator is the president or vice president.

• Knave: Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, for not showing up to explain his department's repeated failure to hold on to national security secrets. A year ago, when nuclear secrets up and disappeared, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson promised to put a stop to such breaches of national security. Now it has happened again; two hard drives containing nuclear secrets are missing from the lab at Los Alamos. This time, Mr. Richardson isn't talking tough. Actually, he didn't even show up to tell the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence why these hard drives are missing. For this Mr. Richardson is The Washington Times' knave of the week.

One may now wonder if Mr. Richardson is doing everything in his power to plug the leaks at Los Alamos. By snubbing Congress, the energy secretary subtly revealed that he doesn't take the apparent theft of these hard drives that seriously. If Mr. Richardson doesn't take this matter seriously, who in his department will?

The American people deserve more from their government officials. Los Alamos is the lab where many of the first crucial steps to developing nuclear weapons occurred. It is also the lab the government uses to continually refine the nation's nuclear arsenal. Keeping that arsenal on the cutting edge of the arms race has long been a staple of national security even in the post-Cold War world. Letting the secrets there leak out is doubly harmful to national security, because it arms the nation's enemies with weapons developed here.

Mr. Richardson should be held accountable for these lapses. Luckily, it seems that Mr. Richardson won't be promoted for his failures. Until recently he was seen as a strong contender to be the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket. That possibility seems to have vanished along with those two hard drives.

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