Crimes -- high and low Grand jury secrecy: Release of additional material mocks key component of justice system.

October 03, 1998

THE HOUSE Judiciary Committee's third installment of material about President Clinton's personal life from the independent counsel's investigation, released yesterday, mocks the grand jury.

This institution depends on secrecy to winnow out false accusations. It gives a prosecutor subpoena power and the threat of perjury charges to compel testimony. In secrecy, it hears testimony that would sometimes be inadmissible in a trial, and it can allow no cross-examination.

But in this case, the grand jury's secrecy has been violated to damage President Clinton's reputation -- even more than his own outrageous conduct has already done -- whether charges are brought or not, and to prejudice any potential jury pool against him. This has done great harm to the grand jury as a respected part of the judicial system.

Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde, an Illinois Republican, and committee members have accomplished little.

Few minds will be swayed by this, following the Starr report, President Clinton's testimony and the earlier release of other evidence. Many people will simply continue to feel disgust with President Clinton's behavior, the witch hunt or some combination of both.

Public esteem for Linda R. Tripp, which was never high, and for Monica Lewinsky will go down. But they do not face impeachment; it's the president who does.

Pub Date: 10/03/98

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