Accuracy in Media

The McLaughlin Group program has raised the issue that we mentioned last week: that a foreign government was tapping President Clinton’s telephone lines during the time he was having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. This information came from the Ken Starr report. Clinton told Lewinsky that he suspected that a foreign embassy (he didn’t identify which one) was tapping his telephone lines. Host John McLaughlin went further, suggesting there was circumstantial evidence that both the FBI and the Chinese knew about this relationship. He wondered if Clinton had been blackmailed.

McLaughlin noted that three weeks before Clinton warned Lewinsky that his phones were tapped, the Washington Post had broken a story about the National Security Agency, the NSA, having intercepted communications from the Chinese embassy. These had been provided to the FBI. McLaughlin wondered if those intercepts had also revealed evidence that the Chinese knew about Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky. Pat Buchanan, a panelist on the program, said Starr should have asked the FBI or the NSA about this.

Eleanor Clift said Starr should have come forward with evidence of blackmail – if he had any such evidence. She indicated that Starr may have put that information into the report only for the purpose of damaging Clinton. McLaughlin countered that Starr may have felt that pursuing such an issue was beyond his mandate. If so, that means that the Congress has to pursue this matter.

There was no disagreement on the show about the reckless nature of Clinton using telephone lines to carry on this affair and have phone sex with Lewinsky. Buchanan commented, “He is reckless to the point of being almost insane to do something like that.” He noted that one phone sex adventure lasted an hour and one half.

Reporter Brian Mitchell of Investor’s Business Daily raised the issue as well, in a story about Clinton’s management of foreign policy issues. He quoted former diplomat John Lenczowski as saying, “Foreign governments look for this type of character [that is, somebody like Clinton [for intelligence recruitment…“Mitchell quoted a former National Security Agency computer specialist as saying he sees no reason why a halfway decent foreign intelligence agency couldn’t have monitored Clinton’s phone conversations. Mitchell said agencies with the capability to do this include China, Russia, Israel and France. Appearing on the Fox News Sunday program, publisher Steve Forbes wondered what would have happened if Linda Tripp had sold her tapes of conversations with Lewinsky to a foreign government. He specifically mentioned the Chinese and the Iraqis.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts dominated discussion of the Sunday talk shows the next day by his suggestion that President Clinton appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the Lewinsky affair. This was considered a bold and risky proposition. But it really misses the point. The House needs to get to the bottom of whether Clinton’s behavior made him a security risk. Clinton himself said during his grand jury testimony that, “I had put myself at risk,” and that he anticipated that Lewinsky would talk about their relationship. But did he put the nation at risk?

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