Former CBS newsman Terrence Smith has joined the New Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS as a press critic, but he’s also retained his eye for news. He was the only reporter covering the new release of documents from the Ken Starr investigation of President Clinton to have noticed a very curious national security angle. It turns out that Clinton told Monica Lewinsky that he suspected the FBI may be monitoring his telephone calls.
Some of the documents are interviews with Lewinsky’s former friend, Linda Tripp, conducted by Ken Starr’s office. As Smith reported, “Tripp says the president warned Lewinsky that his telephone lines were being tapped. She testifies he wasn’t sure if it was a foreign embassy or if it was the FBI. But they had to be extremely careful on the phone. He said he was very afraid to call her in the future…” This reference to the FBI is completely new and it makes us question why Starr didn’t include it in his report. Starr had reported to Congress that Clinton had told Lewinsky that he suspected that a foreign embassy was tapping his telephone lines. He had made no reference to the FBI. But the reference is there in the raw document that helped form the basis for the Starr report.
We have wondered why Starr reported the statement about a foreign embassy monitoring White House telephone lines without following-up on this explosive revelation. One possible explanation is that the matter is under investigation not by Ken Starr but by the U.S. Justice Department. It has been reported that the FBI hesitated to inform the White House about such an investigation, prompting columnist William Safire to speculate that the president himself might be the subject of the probe.
On a recent edition of the McLaughlin Group program, host John McLaughlin suggested there was circumstantial evidence that both the FBI and the Chinese knew about the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship. He 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 revealed evidence that the Chinese knew about Clinton’s affair.
John Fund has written a column for the Wall Street Journal on the security angle, under the headline, “What if Linda Tripp had sent her tapes to China?” He quoted several security experts as saying the president’s behavior was risky and dangerous. It’s clear, John Fund reports, that Clinton was blackmailed, at least by Monica Lewinsky, who demanded that he get her a good job.
What if the president were being monitored by the FBI because of his China connection? But what if Ken Starr has his own China connection? Starr’s law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, is reported to have represented the China International Trust and Investment Corporation, an official Chinese communist entity. If true, Starr may not want to pursue Clinton’s China connection because the issue cuts both ways; it might be too embarrassing for both sides. So they’d rather talk about sex.