Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panetta Calls Files Request `a Mistake' Chief of Staff, Clinton Agree Apology Is Owed to Those Affected by `Snafu'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panetta Calls Files Request `a Mistake' Chief of Staff, Clinton Agree Apology Is Owed to Those Affected by `Snafu'

Article excerpt

Chief of staff Leon Panetta said Sunday that the White House was wrong in requesting secret FBI files on 341 people, including prominent Republicans.

President Bill Clinton agreed with him that those people deserve apologies.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Panetta said: "A mistake was made. It's inexcusable." He referred to disclosures that a White House aide had perused the files in late 1993 for White House security records. "I think an apology is owed to those who were involved."

He added, "I can assure you nothing like that has happened in the last two years" during his term as chief of staff.

Clinton said on a fund-raising trip to Las Vegas, "It appears to have been a completely honest bureaucratic snafu when we were trying to straighten out who should get security clearances to come to the White House." Asked about Panetta's apology statement, Clinton said, "I completely support what he said."

They made their comments a day after Sen. Bob Dole, GOP presidential candidate, said an apology was in order.

On "Meet the Press," Panetta stressed that the Army aide who handled the files - identified as Anthony Marceca of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division - did so only to determine permanent passes to the White House, and that no political use was made of them. The files included those of such Republicans as former Secretary of State James Baker and former White House press secretary James Brady. a

"The good news is there was nothing improper done with that information," Panetta said.

But Republicans have charged that the White House appeared to have been keeping an enemies list. "I think it smells to high heaven," Dole said Saturday, comparing the incident to the Nixon administration's secret investigations of political foes.

Calls For Hearings

Panetta said the FBI would investigate the matter, but House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said that wasn't enough. …

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