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Congress subpoenas damning DoJ report

Yet another contempt citation for Reno in the works

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Netizens worried about the US Justice Department's swashbuckling entry into cyber-space might take some comfort from the past week's fiasco in which a report excoriating Attorney General Janet Reno and implicating her in a cover-up of President Clinton's alleged campaign finance abuses was leaked to the Los Angeles Times. The report, written by DoJ Task Force Supervisor Charles LaBella, criticises Reno for assigning independent counsels to investigate low-level Administration staff while handling senior White House officials in-house when the President's campaign finances were brought into question in 1997-98. Both LaBella and FBI Director Louis Freeh made it clear at the time that all White House staff under suspicion -- including the President, the Vice President and the First Lady -- should be investigated by independent prosecutors. Since receiving the LaBella report two years ago, Reno has kept it sealed within the DoJ and defied congressional pressure to release it, even under threat of contempt citation. To compound matters, House Committee on Government Reform Chairman Dan Burton (Republican, Indiana) issued subpoenas for memos by LaBella and FBI Director Freeh on Friday, the day when the LA Times leaked the LaBella report. If Reno gets in the way, as she did in 1998, Burton says he is prepared to file a contempt motion against her. We think the timing is good for America to be reminded of Reno's numerous abuses of power and lapses of judgment now that the Department is making such strident efforts to colonise the Net in the name of Truth, Justice and the American Way. Congress has not been in much mood to cooperate with DoJ since Reno managed to get 22 children incinerated at the Branch Davidians' Waco, Texas compound in 1993 with some moronic doomsday play urged upon her, she says, by someone she can't recall. If the current controversy -- in which the contents of the memos or Reno's refusal to turn them over have equal chances of fanning the flames -- should re-ignite popular outrage against the Department, it is all but certain that any legislation DoJ seeks will be passed over until the 107th Congress sits, and a new President is in office. That could be good or bad for Internet freedom and privacy, but it can't be much worse than what Reno and her Department have in mind. ®

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