State Dept. official involved in search of Clinton files to join GOP's Senate staff Berry to monitor his former agency

January 19, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A State Department official who wa demoted for his role in the search of President-elect Bill Clinton's passport files during last year's presidential campaign has been hired by Senate Republicans to monitor the activities of the State Department under the new president.

The official, Steven K. Berry, was acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs at the time of the search. On Wednesday, he will go to work for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Berry was hired by Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the committee.

In November, the inspector general of the State Department, Sherman M. Funk, said Mr. Berry had helped arrange the search through passport files in an effort to find politically damaging information about Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Funk recommended disciplinary action against Mr. Berry, saying he had shown "serious lapses in judgment" and seemed, through improper use of his position, to be trying to influence the outcome of the presidential election.

Mr. Berry was relieved of his title as acting assistant secretary of state but has continued to perform miscellaneous duties at the department. A colleague, Elizabeth M. Tamposi, was dismissed as assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, on orders from President Bush.

James W. Nance, director of the Republican staff of the Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that the criticism of Mr. Berry was unfair. "I have no faith at all in the inspector general's report," he said. "I have absolutely no problem with what Steve did. I just can't see what was wrong with it."

Mr. Nance said that Mr. Berry had been just as diligent in getting information requested by Democratic members of Congress as he was in assisting Republicans who sought information on Mr. Clinton. He said Mr. Berry had promptly supplied information to Democrats seeking to know more about Bush administration dealings with Iraq and a scandal involving the Bank of Credit & Commerce International.

The hiring of Mr. Berry dismayed some Senate aides of both parties. But on the Foreign Relations Committee, as on most Senate panels, Republicans and Democrats hire separate staffs. While Democratic aides say it will be difficult for them to work with Mr. Berry, they cannot block Republican staff appointments.

Mr. Nance said Mr. Berry would work on the State Department authorization bill, a wide-ranging charter for the department, which also serves as a vehicle for congressional efforts to shape foreign policy.

As a member of the committee's professional staff, Mr. Berry will also have general responsibility for monitoring State Department operations, especially dealings with Russia and Eastern Europe.

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