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Tamposi Implicates Superiors in Passport Search Scandal

By Walter Pincus
The Washington Post


Last Saturday, four days after she was summarily forced to resign her post as an assistant secretary of state, Elizabeth M. Tamposi for the first time informed the State Department's inspector general that she had been told in September of White House interest in having a search of passport and consular files for information about Bill Clinton.

Tamposi said she had not disclosed this part of her story during two earlier interviews with State Department and General Accounting Office investigators because she "did not want to reach out and hurt anyone unnecessarily," according to a source familiar with Tamposi's statement Saturday.

Following her firing last Tuesday, Tamposi returned to her home state of New Hampshire but became concerned that she was being singled out as responsible for file searches that, she says, she approved on the advice of subordinates and cleared with superiors, the source said.

Tamposi, a lifelong Republican, was also bitter about the way she had been treated the morning she was dismissed by acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger.

She said the public disclosure that day that the passport records of independent presidential candidate Ross Perot had also been searched had triggered her firing, but Eagleburger refused to give an explanation of why she was being fired. He also did not listen to her insistence that more than a month earlier she had sent a memo to her superiors, including an Eagleburger aide, informing them Perot's records were being retrieved for safekeeping.

Sources said Eagleburger's office got the memo on Oct. 14, one day after Perot's passport files were brought to Tamposi's office from the National Records Center in Suitland, Md. Tamposi has said she wrote it on Oct. 2.

After her dismissal, Tamposi began to see stories from Washington that indicated "she was being left out to dry," according to one New Hampshire friend. It was then she decided to "unburden herself" about alleged White House involvement, initially to her lawyer, Thomas C. Green, and last Saturday to State Department inspector general Sherman M. Funk, according to sources.

She was aware that her new statements could be injurious to friends in the Bush administration and to her political party, sources said.

Tamposi told about being called on Sept. 28 by Steven K. Berry, acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, and being asked to search consular files for a purported letter in which Clinton renounced his U.S. citizenship -- or sought information about how to go about renouncing it -- during his Vietnam War protest days in the late 1960s. Tamposi told the investigators that Berry told her the White House wanted such information.

Tamposi said she rejected the informal request, then talked with Berry about the possibility of getting a "legitimate request" from a legislator for information about dual-citizenship records. The next day, Berry sent Tamposi a letter from Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.) requesting information in State Department files about Americans who held dual citizenship to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. But the letter did not mention Clinton specifically, so Tamposi considered the matter closed.

Tamposi's statement forced State Department investigators to undertake additional questioning of other officials, delaying the expected release Monday of the inspector general's report on the affair. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday the report would be made public Wednesday. Boucher declined to comment on Tamposi's allegations about Berry.

Berry, former minority staff director of the House intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, was quoted by Newsweek as denying Tamposi's allegations. He told The Wall Street Journal that Tamposi "had been under a lot of pressure" because of the inspector general's investigation, according to a Journal article Monday.

At the same time, The Journal's sources said that Berry had confirmed to State Department investigators that he had talked to the White House about requests for material on Clinton's alleged renunciation of U.S. citizenship. Berry was not available for comment Monday.

According to The Journal's sources, Berry, at the request of Republican lawmakers and congressional staff members, called Tamposi and asked whether the department had information about Clinton renouncing his citizenship. He also told Tamposi, The Journal sources said, that he had asked White House political director Janet Mullins, his former boss at the State Department and a close aide to Chief of Staff James A. Baker III, if she, too, had been receiving requests for the Clinton material from Capitol Hill.

Mullins, according to the Journal story, did not give Berry any advice or instructions on the subject. According to Journal sources, Berry told the inspector general he never asked Tamposi to search any files.

Mullins has refused to comment to The Washington Post on the matter.

According to Tamposi, two days after her Sept. 28 phone conversation with Berry, Carmen A. DiPlacido, a deputy of hers in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said he had Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from three news organizations which called for the same information Berry said he was seeking and which were supposed to be expedited.

Tamposi said DiPlacido indicated to her that he had already cleared a search of the passport files with the bureau's lawyers. Tamposi was concerned about the legality of such a search, because even if the records were found, they could not be released to the news organizations under the Privacy Act without Clinton's approval or a court order.

Tamposi also said she was told that a preliminary search of records at a K Street facility in the District of Columbia was underway, and DiPlacido wanted her to approve the operation. Tamposi said she gave her authorization with the provision that DiPlacido and two other of her aides undertake the job together to make sure nothing went wrong.