Remember Filegate? Three years ago we learned that the White House had been regularly pulling the files from the FBI on hundreds of Republicans - ostensibly for security clearance but including hundreds of former Ronald Reagan and George Bush appointees never being considered for jobs.
Even Clinton partisans shuddered at shades of an "enemies list." White House spokespeople dismissed it as a "bureaucratic snafu," caused by a Secret Service that couldn't keep its lists straight.Suspicion fell on D. Craig Livingstone, a Democratic advance man unqualified for his sensitive security post.
The FBI admitted wrongdoing in being so complaisant, apologized and said it would never again ship files over without proper paperwork. But it was obviously not qualified to investigate White House abuse of its files; Janet Reno asked for independent counsel, and the matter was assigned to Ken Starr, who had an organization up and running.
Starr has never come to closure. Years passed; Livingstone, seeking no immunity, testified to Congress that everybody and therefore nobody was to blame. Starr's investigation languished.
Fortunately for the public interest in privacy, an organization called Judicial Watch launched a class-action suit in behalf of people whose files had been unlawfully examined. This week it provided The Washington Times with an expanded list of names of those whose most intimate affairs may have been examined by this political operative and his bosses.
The list, still growing, is up to 900 names; some, like Linda Tripp, were holdovers, but at least 400 were not - from James Brady to James Baker, John Whitehead to James Carville.
If the prosecutor cannot indict after all this time, he should issue a report. Here are questions that need answering:
Was Livingstone hired at Hillary Rodham Clinton's suggestion? Who gave this former bar bouncer the names of the targets of White House curiosity - names that he then ordered up from a round-heeled FBI?
Before being returned to the FBI, were the contents of these confidential files typed into White House computer databases?
Here is this series invader of privacy blithely envisioning the transmission of FBI files loaded with hearsay smears being fed to the president himself.
We know that Whodb, pronounced "who-to-be," the White House Office Data Base, has on it tens of thousands of potential contributors and people who owe the Clintons favors, accessible by name, affiliation, race and religion. We do not yet know what else is in these political dossiers.
Who in the White House cooked up the excuse offered when File-gate first surfaced, that the Secret Service was to blame for providing an outdated list of names? After Secret Service agents testified to Congress that this was untrue, and that the names of former White House aides were clearly marked "inactive," Clinton's Treasury harassed the agents with a costly investigation.
The Senate counterinvestigated that harassment; the agents were exonerated and their legal bills paid. Now, ironically, the White House is posing as the big friend of a Secret Service reluctant to testify - while clinging to the canard that an inefficient Secret Service was the cause of hundreds of invasions of privacy.
As Clinton stonewallers talk about the president's privacy, and as White House spinmeisters seize the issue of privacy on the Internet, think about Livingstone's eye to the keyhole of more than 400 Republican bedrooms. If Starr cannot indict, he should report forthwith; then, if necessary, Congress should act.