Who will investigate all the investigators? ON POLITICS

JACK GERMOND & JULES WITCOVER

November 25, 1992|By JACK GERMOND & JULES WITCOVER

WASHINGTON -- Maybe we could call it "Investigate-gate" -- the current phenomenon of governmental investigations that spend taxpayers' money and produce reports that say essentially that not enough questions have been asked of the pertinent people to get to the bottom of what's been investigated.

Such reports usually proclaim that no "credible" evidence has been uncovered to substantiate the allegations that led to the investigation, and consequently are seized upon by those alleged of wrongdoing as a clean bill of health.

The latest is the report of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that investigated, sort of, the celebrated "October Surprise" of 1980 -- the allegation that Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign was in cahoots with Iranian authorities to delay release of American hostages until after the 1980 election in return for a promise of a later arms swap.

The report announces that "the great weight of the evidence is that there was no such deal," and then goes on to acknowledge it had neither the budget (only $75,000) nor the subpoena power and authorization to investigate overseas.

It further notes that Reagan did not cooperate fully with the subcommittee, that documents belonging to the late William J. Casey when he was the Reagan campaign manager were missing, that the FBI played games in the release of sought tapes and even that there was an eight-day gap in the taping of phone conversations involved. Shades of Rose Mary Woods, and her piddling 18 1/2 minutes!

Furthermore, the report says, the Reagan Presidential Library delayed access to sought records of the 1980 campaign until it was too late for review in time to meet the report's deadline. They will, however, be turned over to a special House investigation of the October Surprise due to issue its report next month. We can only hope they arrive in time.

The Senate report comes on the heels of that other splendid example of thoroughness, the report of the State Department's inspector general, Sherman Funk, on his investigation of the case of the perused passport files of Bill Clinton, his mother, and Ross Perot.

Funk reported that there was "no major fraud, no massive corruption, no rogue operations subverting American foreign policy" (who suggested there was?) but that there was "an attempt to use the records and employees of [the department] to influence the outcome of a presidential election." (Oh, is that all?)

Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger added that there was "no credible evidence to support the allegation that anyone in the department was acting at the direction of xTC someone outside the department." But the fall guy in the episode, Elizabeth Tamposi, a political appointee in charge of the passport bureau, acknowledged trying to call Margaret Tutwiler, White House Chief of Staff James Baker's top aide. And Steven Berry, another State Department official, was reported to have "frequently talked with" another close Baker aide, Janet Mullins, about the Clinton files search to find a letter purported to show he was thinking of renouncing his citizenship during the Vietnam War.

That either Tutwiler or Mullins would know of a search for such explosive information in the waning days of the campaign and not keep Baker informed every step of the way defies credence, campaign insiders tell us.

Funk's report boasts that 107 interviews were conducted, but few or none were done under oath and the only member of the Bush-Quayle campaign staff interviewed was Alixe Glen, a staffer involved in circulating anti-Clinton material, including at some Clinton rallies, who happened to be a roommate of Tamposi. She denied any involvement.

It is interesting too to note that Funk himself was shown the Clinton file by those who snatched it from the passport repository."

The upshot of all this is much suspicion about the reliability of the State Department"s investigation of itself, and instructions from two Democrats in Congress to have the General Accounting Office, its investigative arm, look into questions raised by Funk's report.

But the question is: Who will investigate the GAO when its report comes out?

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