- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

The latest White House scandal has just taken a very curious turn. The scandal in question is, of course, the failure to provide, as required by law, several thousand subpoenaed e-mail messages relating to numerous other White House scandals to several congressional committees, independent counsel Kenneth Starr and the Justice Department's campaign-finance task force. As Jerry Seper and Andrew Cain of The Washington Times reported Wednesday, a computer "zip disk," which is a sophisticated floppy-like disk with expanded storage space, suddenly arrived at the White House on March 17. The mysterious disk happens to contain e-mail messages that former intern Monica Lewinsky sent to two White House workers during and after the time she was carrying on with President Clinton.

On March 17 the in-house counsel of Northrop Grumman, the firm that manages the White House's computer systems, turned the "zip disk" over to the Executive Office of the President, which, as of last Friday, had not yet reviewed its contents. The "zip disk's" mysterious appearance at the White House occurred one week after Justice Department investigators contacted the White House about the missing e-mails. That contact occurred three weeks after The Washington Times first reported that more than 100,000 e-mail messages sent between August 1996 and November 1998 were never properly archived by the White House and, thus, were not found in the normal computer searches the White House conducted in efforts to comply with the various subpoenas. The "zip disk" also arrived at the White House six days before Robert Haas, the computer technician who compiled it and who turned it over to Northrop Grumman's corporate counsel, told Chairman Dan Burton of the House Government Reform Committee that he "never saved [any e-mail search responses or records] on a zip drive for anybody."

Betty Lambuth, a White House computer colleague of Mr. Haas, had testified in a civil lawsuit that Mr. Haas had told her that thousands of the missing e-mails involved Filegate, Travelgate, campaign finance, Miss Lewinsky and other White House scandals. At the House hearing last week, Mr. Haas denied doing so, just as he denied saving any records on a zip drive. But Mr. Haas did confirm Mrs. Lambuth's assertion that White House officials threatened them and others with imprisonment if they revealed the missing e-mails to anyone, including their spouses and superiors.

Some messages on the "zip disk" included e-mails Miss Lewinsky sent to her friends Ashley Raines and Betty Currie, the president's personal secretary, while Miss Raines and Mrs. Currie were testifying before a federal grand jury investigating the president. Other messages on the "zip disk" were e-mails sent by Miss Lewinsky to Miss Raines in 1996 and 1997, while the affair was actually taking place. Mr. Haas compiled the e-mails that are on the "zip disk" in 1998, but it is not known when he handed the disk to Northrop Grumman's counsel.

Part of the White House's computer glitch was first identified in January 1998, the month the Lewinsky scandal erupted. A computer search at the time failed to turn up many of Miss Lewinsky's e-mails to her friends. The full extent of the problem was not discovered by White House computer technicians until May 1998. Senior White House officials learned of the full problem in June, while the White House was engaged in a fierce battle to impede Mr. Starr's investigation. The glitch wasn't solved until November 1998.

At last week's Government Reform Committee hearing, Mr. Haas testified that a special computer search he conducted in July 1998 recovered numerous e-mails from Miss Lewinsky that were not properly archived. He turned them over to his superiors, who, upon reviewing them, drew the interesting conclusion that all of them had already been found by other means and had been turned over to the independent counsel. Given that none of them had ever been archived, how the White House recovered all of them would be fascinating to know. Perhaps White House Counsel Beth Nolan will tell Mr. Burton today when she testifies.

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