Early allegations of White House drug usage.


October 4, 1996


By MICAH MORRISON
WALL STREET JOURNAL

THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY, Va. -- For more than two
years, Congress has been trying to get straight
answers from the White House on drug-related
issues. After Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) complained in
March 1994 that more than 100 White House staffers
had failed to get final security clearances and
permanent passes, the White House set up its own
drug-testing program. This June, news emerged from
congressional oversight hearings that the man in
charge of issuing passes, White House personnel
security chief Craig Livingstone, had his own FBI
clearance held up because of past drug use.

Today "there are still many unanswered questions
about the White House drug-testing program," says
Ned Lynch, a spokesman for the House Civil Service
Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Mica (R., Fla.),
which has been probing White House compliance
with the Drug-Free Federal Workplace order.
"Evidence presented in recent testimony about the
drug experiences of White House employees
continues to give us great concern," Mr. Lynch adds.

None of this comes as a surprise to retired FBI
Special Agent Dennis Sculimbrene, who was the
senior agent at the FBI's liaison office in the White
House from 1986 to April 1996. His job was to conduct
the background interviews that provide information
about the suitability of individuals to have access to
the White House complex. He retired in August, citing
"unjustified changes in my professional assignments
and assaults on my career" after he appeared as a
defense witness in the 1995 trial of former Travel
Office head Billy Dale and testified this summer
before House and Senate committees about White
House drug use and Travelgate. The White House and
its surrogates have denounced Mr. Sculimbrene as a
mentally unbalanced liar, a man "whose hatred of the
administration is well documented, as is his ongoing
employment dispute with the FBI," in the words of
White House Whitewater spokesman Mark Fabiani.
Mr. Sculimbrene, for his part, has been unflinching in
his congressional testimony, describing an
atmosphere of moral squalor at the White House and
alleging serious abuses of power by the Clinton
administration and the FBI. This is his first
conversation with a reporter.

"Drug use was an obvious problem from the beginning" of
the Clinton administration, Mr. Sculimbrene said last week at
his home in a remote stretch of the Shenandoah Valley, far
>from  the Beltway wars he has left behind. "Because [the
Clintonites] were younger than the previous administration, I
expected we would have more people saying they used drugs
more frequently, more recently. But what I didn't
expect, and what I found personally intolerable--though I
kept my mouth shut--was the superior attitude, the attitude that
there was nothing wrong with it. Some of the people I
interviewed said things like, 'Well, Bill Clinton used marijuana
himself.' One of the first young kids I interviewed said
something along the lines of, 'I can't believe you're
asking me these questions about marijuana, because,
heck, the president himself used it.' That's a total,
180-degree opposite viewpoint from the previous
administration about the usage of drugs."

'No Big Deal'

Because of Privacy Act considerations, Mr.
Sculimbrene often spoke in careful generalities and
declined to identify individuals by name or specific
position. But he clearly is troubled by the character of
the Clinton White House. "It was not just young people
who used drugs," Mr. Sculimbrene says. "There were
senior people as well, senior aides and advisers to
the president who used drugs recently--people in
policy positions, or, say, a director of an office. Some
of them had the attitude: No big deal; it should be
legalized. Some senior people even said they had
used drugs as recently as the Inaugural."

Mr. Sculimbrene says that around June 1993 he
reviewed his case files for an informal estimate of
White House drug use. "I estimated that about 25% of
the incoming administration, about one out of four
cases, had a problem with illegal drugs. Not just
casual experimentation, but a pattern of usage, which
to me indicated a lack of good judgment and a
disregard for the law. And not just marijuana, but
cocaine, amphetamines, amphetamine-derived
'designer drugs' such as Ecstasy, hashish,
mushrooms."

In January 1994, Mr. Sculimbrene, a former pilot for
the Air Force and the FBI, suffered a severe head
injury while working on an airplane. The injury
resulted in some vision, hearing and balance
problems, which were largely corrected through
physical therapy, though some deficits remained. He
returned to work in October. "The FBI rallied around
me at the time of my accident," Mr. Sculimbrene says,
"and for that I'll always be grateful. I wasn't ready for
duty as a street agent, but I could and did perform my
White House duties well. Things also had improved
somewhat at the White House by the time I got back,
though there still were problems. It was around that
time that I heard about what was being called 'the
Livingstone Rule'"--presumably for Craig Livingstone.
"The Livingstone Rule was: Drug use of more than 50
times was now a disqualifying factor for a permanent
White House pass. It was around that time, as I recall,
that several people called us and said they wanted to
recant their previous interview; they hadn't used
drugs 100 times, only 50 times. It's public information
that Craig Livingstone lied during his FBI interview
about drug use, and he wasn't the only one."

Drugs weren't the only problem Mr. Sculimbrene
observed at the White House. He says he began to
suffer severe career repercussions from both the
White House and the FBI after he became entangled
in the Travel Office affair. Travel Office head Billy Dale
and five other employees were fired in May 1993, and
Mr. Dale was charged by the Justice Department with
embezzling funds.

Top White House officials had begun inquiring about
the Travel Office staff, their lifestyles and political
affiliations, "only a few weeks into the
administration," Mr. Sculimbrene says. The officials
were then-Deputy White House Counsel William
Kennedy, then-Director of Administration Patsy
Thomasson and presidential aide Jeff Eller. "I told
them I thought Billy Dale was an upright, honest guy
and that there was no trouble there," Mr.
Sculimbrene recalled. "Those firings were strictly a
fabrication."

During the FBI investigation of Mr. Dale, Mr.
Sculimbrene says, he made his opinion known to an
FBI supervisor. But despite Mr. Sculimbrene's
familiarity with the case and the players, he was
never interviewed by the FBI. "No one ever came to
see me about the case," he says.

Within the FBI, tensions began to mount over the
impending trial. "Around August of 1995, I had a
shouting match with the supervising agent on the
Dale case, David Bowie," Mr. Sculimbrene says.
"Bowie told me Dale would have pled guilty long ago
'if it weren't for those rich Republicans giving him
money.' I told him that was a wrongheaded remark
and that I should have been interviewed for the
investigation. Bowie told me I had nothing relevant to
say, and then threatened me with an [FBI] Office of
Professional Responsibility investigation. We were
really going at it."

Shortly after that encounter, Mr. Sculimbrene says,
he was told by the FBI that he had to take a random
drug test. "I'd never had one before, and I'd never
heard of anyone in my age group having to take a drug
test--I was 51 at the time. I thought that was quite a
coincidence after my argument with Bowie."

In what Mr. Sculimbrene describes as another
"coincidence," the possibility of a prestigious job
lofted his way shortly before his testimony at the Dale
trial. The incident raises questions about the nature
and timing of an offer that could be construed as an
attempt to buy his silence. Mr. Sculimbrene says that
he was approached by a mid-level member of the
presidential personnel office from Arkansas and
encouraged to apply for a job as inspector general at
the Department of Veterans' Affairs. "The official told
me he had talked to Patsy [Thomasson] about the
offer," Mr. Sculimbrene says. Ms. Thomasson, a
Clinton intimate and former associate of Arkansas
cocaine convict Dan Lasater, ran the personnel
office. "After I testified at the Dale trial," Mr.
Sculimbrene recalls, "I ran into the official again. He
told me the job was out of the question, now that I had
testified."

Mr. Sculimbrene had been subpoenaed as a defense
witness at the Dale trial; he testified in October 1995.
On Nov. 16, after deliberating less than two hours, a
jury acquitted Mr. Dale of all charges. But Mr.
Sculimbrene's troubles were just beginning.

In February 1996, he was notified that the FBI's Office
of Professional Responsibility was investigating him
for alleged misuse of a government parking pass. "I
thought it was some sort of sick joke," Mr.
Sculimbrene says. Within a few weeks, he was
interviewed by OPR investigators and presented with
a new notice of more serious charges: An anonymous
letter had been received charging him with making
racist comments, speaking to the media and "time
and attendance fraud." Mr. Sculimbrene says the FBI
rank and file is demoralized by the FBI leadership and
its misuse of such OPR investigations. "The OPR
process causes terrible injury and is a burning issue
for agents," Mr. Sculimbrene says. "It's being used as
a personal management tool to control agents.
Sometimes a case can hang over an agent for years,
causing terrible stress."

Mr. Sculimbrene eventually was cleared in the OPR
probe. But behind the scenes, a dramatic clash was
shaping up, one that eventually would lead to Mr.
Sculimbrene's resignation. In January, Mr.
Sculimbrene's former partner, Gary Aldrich, had
submitted the manuscript of his book to the FBI for
review. The FBI general counsel, Howard Shapiro,
promptly shipped a copy to the White House, it was
revealed at House oversight hearings this summer.
Mr. Sculimbrene says that he was also notified to
expect a visit from Mr. Shapiro, who in the end sent
two agents to question him about Mr. Aldrich and the
FBI's White House liaison office. "In January, I imagine
right after learning of the manuscript, Director
[Louis] Freeh ordered the liaison office shut down
immediately. Cooler heads prevailed at the time, but
not for long, as it turned out."

Largely True

Mr. Sculimbrene says that before the agents visited
him at Mr. Shapiro's direction, "I had no idea that
Gary was writing a book about the White House. But
after reading it, I can tell you it is largely true." A
scathing critique of White House mores, "Unlimited
Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House,"
became No. 1 on the bestseller lists and created a
firestorm when it was published in June. It also
probably spelled the end of Mr. Sculimbrene at the
FBI.

In April, he was relieved of his responsibilities at the
White House. His White House pass was revoked in
May, his work assignments were taken away, and he
was ordered to undergo a fitness-for-duty exam, prior
to reassignment to street duty. Mr. Sculimbrene filed
an administrative complaint with the FBI alleging he
had been denied "reasonable accommodation" for his
disability in his job transfer and new duty
assignments. It later emerged in congressional
oversight hearings that at the same time, Mr.
Livingstone, still at the White House, had ordered Mr.
Sculimbrene's FBI background file, saying it was
required for a reinvestigation of the agent.

In July, after the Aldrich book appeared and Mr.
Sculimbrene testified before House and Senate
committee investigators, FBI Counsel Shapiro sent
two agents to Mr. Sculimbrene's home to question
him about notes he had taken in a 1993 interview with
then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum that
suggested that Mr. Livingstone--suddenly famous in
the wake of Filegate revelations--had been hired at
Hillary Clinton's urging. "I viewed that visit as highly
improper," Mr. Sculimbrene says. "Mr. Shapiro should
have been taking no action in the matter, as it had
been turned over to the independent counsel."

In late July, expecting to resume duties after medical
exams, Mr. Sculimbrene says he was "stunned" to
learn he had been ordered to go to Chicago for a
psychiatric examination. "This seemed to confirm all I
had learned from White House sources about ongoing
efforts to discredit me," he says. In August, Mr.
Sculimbrene quit the FBI. A few weeks later, the FBI
liaison office at the White House was shut down.
Agents conducting background investigations now
work out of an FBI field office in Washington.

"That's a damn shame," Mr. Sculimbrene says. "The
public is not well served by such a move. It's one thing
to remove me; its another to shut down the whole
office."


Mr. Morrison is a Journal editorial page writer.
       
Copyright  1996 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


       


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