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White House Provided DNC With Top-Secret Information

By Bob Woodward
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The White House supplied top-secret intelligence information to the Democratic National Committee to block a Latvian businessman with alleged ties to organized crime from attending a $25,000-a-person fund-raising dinner with President Clinton, according to government officials and other sources.

The effort was successful, and the businessman, Grigori Lout-chansky, who had been formally invited to attend the DNC fund-raising dinner in 1995, was abruptly disinvited.

In the course of the episode, political operatives in the White House and the DNC gained access to and disseminated information gathered by some of the nation's most sensitive intelligence-gathering methods. Many did not have the required high-security clearances to receive such information.

Officials involved in the incident said that while checking Loutchansky's background, the White House National Security Council reported to the political affairs office there that the National Security Agency (NSA) was monitoring his international telephone calls.

Loutchansky's firm, Nordex, allegedly was associated with Russian organized crime organizations, officials said. The political affairs office, in turn, reported to the DNC about the monitoring program, officials said.

"This was top secret, and it further demonstrates the total politicization of all intelligence and White House operations," said one senior official. "Anything and everything was done in the name of fund-raising."

The administration has been embarrassed repeatedly by reports that a number of felons, drug dealers and others with unsavory backgrounds attended White House coffees and DNC fund-raisers with the president, who has acknowledged that screening procedures were too lax.

The latest disclosure has left Democratic Party sources wondering whether future efforts to run a full check on a fund-raising dinner guest might backfire. "You really are damned if you do and damned if you don't," one source said.

A Latvian who now lives in Israel, Loutchansky, who once met briefly with Clinton, is a controversial figure who has been barred from entering the United States, Canada and Britain. His attorney, Thomas Spencer Jr., disputed the reports of his client's alleged ties to organized crime.

"It's an outrageous, false allegation," Spencer said Monday. "Everywhere in Europe where that's been printed he's either sued and won or it's been retracted." Spencer added that "we have no way of knowing what the sources are" behind the intelligence information.

The NSA spends billions of dollars each year monitoring electronic communications around the world, and it zealously guards its sources and methods, which include satellites, microwave and more traditional radio and electronic communications interception equipment.

The Loutchansky telephone intercepts were considered "sensitive compartmented information," which meant the intelligence was to be distributed only to named individuals with the highest government security clearances.

The Loutchansky incident began when the DNC, concerned about a foreign national attending a presidential dinner, asked the White House to run a check on the Latvian.

According to one source, the NSA monitored conversations between Loutchansky and Sam Domb, a New York real-estate executive and DNC donor who was planning to contribute $25,000 so that Loutchansky could attend a July 20, 1995, dinner with Clinton at the Mayflower Hotel.

A senior government official Monday confirmed the NSA monitoring of Loutchansky in 1995, but maintained that although the NSA had an extensive file of intercepted international Loutchansky phone calls, it contains none between Loutchansky and Domb, an American citizen.

Federal law, executive orders and NSA policy all prohibit the NSA from intercepting phone calls of U.S. citizens except under unusual circumstances.

Another source insisted that specific information about a Loutchansky phone call with Domb was passed to the DNC.

Whatever the case, the NSA's monitoring of Loutchansky and his Austria-based firm, Nordex, illustrates the degree to which the customary barriers between White House and intelligence officials broke down in the 1995-96 election cycle.

"I can't think of any reason why information of this type should have ever been given to the DNC," said Stewart Baker, the NSA's general counsel from 1992 to 1994.