FBI Files Figure Refuses to Answer Senate Questions
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Army civilian employee who gathered FBI background files on Republicans at the White House informed a Senate committee today he won’t answer questions, invoking his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.
The surprise decision by Anthony Marceca to take the Fifth Amendment in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee came just two days after he testified freely at a House hearing into the FBI files mishap.
White House spokesman Mark Fabiani said in a statement, ``Although Mr. Marceca had the right to do what he did today, we are disappointed that the public’s right to know all the facts has been partly blocked for the time being. The president has reaffirmed his instructions to White House staff to cooperate fully to provide the complete facts to the public.″
Marceca did not appear for today’s hearings. But Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, read a letter from Marceca’s lawyers announcing his decision.
``He will assert his right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment in response to any questions″ the committee might ask him, the letter from Marceca’s lawyers said.
Marceca’s refusal to testify shows ``that this investigation is getting somewhere. The more we dig, the more we learn,″ Hatch said.
Hatch said he has instructed his committee’s lawyers to discuss with Marceca whether there are any questions he might answer. He said he would also seek an analysis of whether Marceca’s claim is valid since he already answered questions before the House committee on Wednesday.
There was no immediate explanation for Marceca’s abrupt turnabout. In addition to the congressional probes, Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr has been given the okay from a court to determine if any crimes were committed in the FBI files case.
Marceca and his supervisor at the White House, former security chief Craig Livingstone, have both testified that Marceca mistakenly used an outdated Secret Service list in requesting and obtaining from the FBI hundreds of background files on former employees of the Reagan and Bush administrations.
Among them were several prominent Republicans, including former Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater.
Testifying today, Livingstone reiterated that no one in the Clinton White House ever attempted to improperly obtain or misuse FBI files
Asked whether any high-level White House officials helped him get his job, he said no.
Livingstone said he did not know former deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster, who committed suicide in July, 1993.
On Wednesday, former associate White House counsel William Kennedy III testified that he had hired Livingstone on Foster’s recommendation.
Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., cautioned Livingstone to be careful to be truthful in his answers. ``Here’s where the rubber hits the road,″ Simpson said. ``Here’s where perjury lies.″
Livingstone acknowledged that interns working in his office ``could have just opened up a file and looked at it.″
That brought an angry response from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who noted that senators must follow strict rules for examining FBI files of presidential nominees during confirmation proceedings. ``We can’t see an FBI file unless there’s an FBI agent in the room with us,″ Grassley said.
Among the issues Starr has been asked to investigate is whether Marceca committed any crimes when he sent a form indicating the people whose files he was seeking were likely to have access to the Clinton White House.
The White House has apologized for the mistake. There has been no evidence to date indicating information in the Republican files was misused.
In a new development, court records show that Marceca apparently had access to his own FBI background file after he left the White House. In a 1994 defamation suit he filed against two Texans, Marceca said he examined a report from an FBI background check on himself in September of that year.
The report showed that the two Texans told the FBI that Marceca had ties to organized crime, court records show. The allegations led to Marceca’s dismissal from the White House personnel security office in February 1994, Marceca alleged in the suit.
The committee also released a letter today in which Hatch asked Starr to conduct a fingerprint analysis on improperly obtained files the White House returned to the FBI this month.
Hatch said there was some evidence that interns without security clearances had been worked with the files.
``I am deeply concerned that these files could have been examined by individuals who either did not have security clearances or did not have an authorized purpose to see the files,″ he wrote Starr.
Under pressure, the White House removed Livingstone, 37, a political operative and former restaurant bouncer, and replaced him with a more experienced career security employee.