21 at White House had drug tests stepped up Staff members admitted use on security questionnaires

July 16, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service stepped up drug testing on 21 White House staff members two years ago after they revealed experiences far more extensive than an experimental puff of marijuana in college, a White House spokeswoman said yesterday.

In answers to questionnaires needed to obtain permanent White House passes, the staff members disclosed that they had smoked marijuana or taken stronger drugs at least once within the past year -- or more frequently in years past.

The Bush administration imposed a random drug-testing policy at the White House in 1991, a policy that continues. But the Secret Service asked the 21 employees of the Clinton White House to submit to at least two tests a year, said the spokeswoman, Mary Ellen Glynn.

Nine employees, none at a senior level, undergo a minimum of two random drug tests a year, she said. Twelve of the 21 ordered to submit to the tests have left the White House, she said.

None failed a drug test, and no member of the Clinton White House has tested positive for drug use in the program, she said.

About 1,700 people work at the White House, from cooks and clerks to top aides. None of those aides were involved, Glynn said.

The White House revealed the existence of the program last year in written answers to questions posed by congressional Republicans and later printed in the Congressional Record.

Those answers disclosed that the mandatory twice-a-year tests had been instituted for White House workers with "extensive and/or recent drug use found in their backgrounds." Their identities are protected by privacy laws.

Those backgrounds came to the attention of the Secret Service in 1993 and early 1994, as part of a process that led to White House aides obtaining FBI files that they had no right to see.

The new White House staff that came to Washington with Clinton in 1993 included people in their 20s and 30s who had, like many of their generation, at least a passing acquaintance with illegal drugs. To obtain permanent White House passes from the Secret Service, the staff had to fill out questionnaires about their pasts and submit them to the FBI.

At least 21 admitted to having either taken drugs within the past year or having engaged in "a pattern of use" when they were younger, Glynn said. A former Clinton administration official said those patterns included at least a few instances of relatively heavy use. Some were slow to fill out forms, fearful of revealing their pasts.

These problems led to a backlog of people working at the White House without permanent passes. In August 1993, Craig Livingstone, the White House personnel security director, brought in Anthony Marceca, an Army security officer, to help clear the backlog.

Instead, they created a political embarrassment. Using an outdated Secret Service list, Marceca obtained hundreds of FBI files on people who had no connection to the Clinton administration, including prominent Republicans.

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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