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 For Immediate Release
Jun 29, 1999 Contact: Press Office

House Republican sues White House


By Barbara J. Saffir

The congressman who led the impeachment drive against President Clinton is now suing the White House for violating his privacy and trying to damage his reputation.

Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, charges that the Clinton administration broke federal privacy laws by accessing FBI and other governmental records on him.

The lawsuit, filed Friday by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, charges that the White House leaked the information to selected reporters and critics such as Democratic operative James Carville and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.

During the impeachment trial, Mr. Flynt reported that Mr. Barr helped his second wife get an abortion in 1983.

At the time, Mr. Barr said his conduct could not be equated with the charges against Mr. Clinton.

The White House would not discuss the lawsuit. "We have not yet been served with the legal action and have no comment on it," said Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for the White House counsel's office.

The suit charges that the White House's actions are "part of a pattern of willful and intentional misconduct undertaken for purposes of attacking or threatening attacks" on Mr. Barr and "other perceived critics and adversaries."

"The improper maintenance of files on individuals and the release of information from these files by the White House, without the consent of the persons affected, is a violation of the Privacy Act," the lawsuit contends.

Mr. Barr, a 50-year-old former federal prosecutor, was one of the 13 House managers who coordinated the impeachment trial.

"As a house manager, Representative Barr had a duty to carry out his constitutional responsibilities. The White House attempted to interfere with those constitutional responsibilities and one of the ways it did so was to collect and misuse information on Representative Barr," Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman said.

Mr. Klayman filled the lawsuit on Mr. Barr's behalf in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

It names the Executive Office of the President and the Justice Department -- which oversees the FBI -- and asks each to pay compensatory damages of $1,000 or more, along with costs and attorneys' fees. It also asks the judge to order the White House to produce any records it has on Mr. Barr. It states that he suffered unspecified damages.

An Internet publication, Capitol Hill Blue, reported Feb. 29, 1999, that "the Clinton White House has collected new dossiers, complete with financial records, FBI investigative information and IRS reports on House impeachment managers and other perceived enemies of the administration."

One of the issues disputed in the lawsuit is whether any documents the White House had compiled would be covered by the Privacy Act.

The Justice Department told Mr. Barr in a March 30, 1999, letter that the act "does not apply to White House employees within the Office of the President whose sole function is to advise and assist the president." But a June 30, 1993, letter from the White House's personnel director to presidential aide John Podesta says the act does apply to White House travel office employees' records.

A letter to Mr. Barr from the General Accounting Office -- Congress' investigative arm -- says the president's deputy counsel "informed us that the White House maintains files on budget and legislative issues, and that such files may include information on the reported positions and voting records of various members of the Congress."

"She further informed us that these files are retrievable by subject matter, not by named individuals so the Privacy Act would not be applicable to the records," the July 20, 1998, letter said.

In Judicial Watch's related $90 million class-action lawsuit against the FBI, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and others, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that "personal FBI files, which were created for a legitimate but narrow purpose, were inadequately maintained and improperly disclosed to White House employees who were not acting in the interest of the United States, but for partisan political purposes."

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