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State Department Aides Searched Perot's Passport File

By Michael Isikoff
and Walter Pincus

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

Two weeks after they conducted an unusual late-night hunt for the passport files of Bill Clinton and his mother, State Department officials returned to a National Archives depository in suburban Maryland to search and retrieve the passport records of independent presidential candidate Ross Perot, according to a National Archives memo.

The internal memo states that Richard P. McClevey, chief of the State Department's Office of Program Support, and two unnamed department officials visited the National Records Center in Suitland, Md., on Oct. 13 "and researched the passport application files for H. Ross Perot."

The memo states that McClevey, a deputy to assistant secretary for consular affairs Elizabeth M. Tamposi, and the two other State Department officials -- whose names were deleted -- "removed one application and two letters from his (Perot's) company that were loose in the files."

The memo does not explain what the company letters were about or why they were in Perot's files. It states that "other applications for Mr. Perot had been retrieved by the State Department in the early 1980s and not returned to file."

The Oct. 26 memo provides the first indication that Perot's passport records were searched as were Clinton's during the final weeks of the 1992 presidential campaign. Although the State Department has acknowledged receiving five Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on Perot this year, a senior department official familiar with the requests said Monday that none of them specifically sought information about Perot's passport records. The Archives memo also contains no indication that the search of Perot's files was conducted in response to any FOIA request.

"It's a gross abuse of federal power," Perot said Monday when informed of the State Department search by a reporter during a telephone interview.

Perot said that during the campaign there was "a steady stream of government agencies going after everything they could get on me, typically under the guise of freedom of information."

The State Department search of Perot's files adds a new element to what department officials have acknowledged was an abuse of the freedom-of-information process to hunt for politically damaging material on Clinton -- conduct that has triggered separate investigations by the State Department's inspector general and the General Accounting Office.

Asked about the matter on Oct. 27, acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger said: "There is no question the State Department has been politicized in this campaign, and I don't like it at all ... . Some things may or may not have been done -- I do not know yet and won't until the investigation is over -- that were beyond the pale."

The Archives memo also raises new questions about Eagleburger's Oct. 2 decision, based on recommendations from subordinates, to request an FBI investigation into whether there had been illegal tampering with Clinton's passport files. The FBI concluded within a few days, however, that there was no evidence to support the tampering allegation.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has said the concerns about tampering were raised by deputies of Tamposi who searched through Clinton's files for 10 hours on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. However, Archives officials had already told the department they saw nothing unusual in the Clinton files.

The Oct. 26 memo states that two of Tamposi's deputies -- Carmen DePlacido, then acting deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services, and Steven Moheban, a special assistant to Tamposi -- told Archives officials during a visit on Oct. 8 that "they were sorry for all of the problems resulting from the search for the records."

"They stated that it had not been their decision to involve the FBI and that they did not believe that the records had been tampered with," the memo states.

The Oct. 26 memo was among several documents obtained from the National Archives by the American Civil Liberties Union under the FOIA. A copy of the memo, along with other Archive records on State Deaprtment searches for material, was made available Monday to The Washington Post.

When the State Department's search for records on Clinton was disclosed last month, department officials said it was conducted in response to to three FOIA requests from news organizations seeking information on the Democratic presidential nominee received in September. But department officials later acknowledged those requests had been improperly expedited.