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Secret Service Issued Passes to White House Staff with History of Drug Use



According to statements from Secret Service agents, permanent passes were issued in 1993 to about a dozen people in the White House with "extensive or recent" drug use that included crack cocaine or hallucinogens despite concerns by the Secret Service (Anne Farris and John F. Farris, "Drug Use Worried Secret Service," Washington Post, July 18, 1996, p. A1; George Archibald, "Livingstone hired despite warning," Washington Times, July 18, 1996, p. A1; Richard A. Serrano, "Drug Use by 36 Clinton staffers Told," Los Angeles Times/Washington Edition, July 18, 1996, p. A4; Associated Press, "Gingrich Blasts White House Over Drug Use," Washington Post, July 21, 1996, p. A12).

During Congressional testimony regarding the investigation of Craig Livingstone and the alleged White House misuse of hundreds of FBI files, Secret Service agents expressed their concern over the "derogatory information" discovered in their background review of as many as 40 staffers. They said drug problems could lead to low productivity, blackmail and other security breaches that could endanger the President and the White House.

The Secret Service dropped its objections and granted the passes only after the White House agreed to require staff members with troubling drug histories to undergo surprise drug tests twice a year. Under questioning by Republicans in the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Arnold A. Cole, a Secret Service supervisor, told members that he did not agree with their suggestions that White House officials have a "relaxed attitude" about Secret Service concerns. He added, "I would characterize it as a difference of opinion."

Press secretary Michael McCurry said President Clinton has established a policy that "prior drug use is not a bar to employment" but that "maintaining a drug-free lifestyle" once hired is necessary. He stated Clinton has a "zero-tolerance standard for drug use at the White House" and that no aide has tested positive since Clinton's administration began. McCurray acknowledged his own previous marijuana habits. "I'll tell you, I have myself. I was a kid in the 1970s. Did I smoke a joint from time to time? Of course I did. The FBI knows that," McCurry said, "That doesn't disqualify me from serving here."

Government officials maintain that only 21, less than 1% of the 1700 Clinton White House employees, were allowed to continue working after background checks turned up evidence of recent drug use and that only 9 still work at the White House. McCurry said that none of these nine people is among the top 130 White House officials.

William J. Bennett, a former Cabinet official and speaking for Bob Dole, said McCurry's comments showed a "cavalier attitude about drugs." He added, "It's the typical mindset of the Clinton crowd that everybody did it." In a July 20 statement, Newt Gingrich said McCurry should have admitted that smoking marijuana was a mistake. A Clinton-Gore campaign spokesman, Joe Lockhart, responded that Gingrich admitted using marijuana as a graduate student in an article in The Economist last year. During the hearing before the House Committee, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) read from a deposition by an FBI background investigator who works at the White House and who suggested that there "is no inordinate amount" of drug use there compared to other government agencies and departments.

Random drug testing has been in place at the White House since 1988 and, since the start of Clinton's term, employees have been told that they face immediate dismissal if they test positive.