Higher-up named in Clinton file search Undersecretary OK cited by Camposi

November 14, 1992|By Robert Pear | Robert Pear,New York Times News Service Mark Matthews of the Washington Bureau contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- The State Department official dismissed this week for authorizing a search of Bill Clinton's passport files has told federal investigators that the search was approved by one of the highest-ranking political appointees in the department.

The official, Elizabeth M. Tamposi, has been described by the Bush administration as the person responsible for the search, which embarrassed the State Department and the White House at the height of the presidential campaign.

But a person close to the inquiry said Ms. Tamposi has told investigators that the search was approved by John F. W. Rogers, the undersecretary of state for management. Moreover, Ms. Tamposi said the search was begun by one of her assistants, Carmen DePlacido, acting director of the passport office, without consulting her.

Ms. Tamposi, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, was dismissed Tuesday by President Bush. She was interviewed by auditors working for Sherman M. Funk, inspector general of the State Department.

Mr. Funk is investigating the agency's search through passport records for information that could have been damaging to Mr. Clinton; his mother, Virginia Kelley, and Ross Perot, the independent candidate.

Mr. Rogers is one of four undersecretaries who rank in the department hierarchy under the deputy secretary and the secretary. At the time of the search, Deputy Secretary Lawrence S. Eagleburger was acting secretary because James A. Baker III had moved to the White House, where he was trying to revive Mr. Bush's re-election campaign.

Mr. Rogers, 36, worked in the Reagan White House under Mr. Baker when he was chief of staff there and served as assistant secretary of the Treasury under Mr. Baker, who was Treasury secretary in Mr. Reagan's second term.

Efforts to reach Mr. Rogers were unsuccessful.

Ms. Tamposi told investigators that she called Mr. Rogers on Sept. 30, explained to him that Mr. Clinton's records had been requested by news organizations under the Freedom of Information Act and described the procedures being used to search for those records.

Mr. Rogers "raised no concerns or objections, nor did he suggest any alternative procedure" for handling the information requests, Ms. Tamposi told the investigators. The State Department has said its officials acted improperly in putting the request for records on Mr. Clinton ahead of other requests made under the information act.

Ms. Tamposi has also told the investigators that the search was begun by Ms. DePlacido on Sept. 30 in response to the requests from news organizations. She says Ms. DePlacido consulted her after the search began, but not before.

State Department officials confirmed that the agency's operations center had monitored some of Ms. Tamposi's telephone conversations with other administration officials. The monitoring was disclosed yesterday by the Washington Post. The conversations, which took place in the five weeks before the presidential election, included discussions about Mr. Clinton's passport files, the officials said.

The FBI has opened an inquiry to see if the monitoring violated federal wiretap statutes.

Thomas C. Green, a lawyer for Ms. Tamposi, yesterday said, "She was not aware at all that her calls were being monitored, and she is very upset about it."

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