Drug Use by 36 Clinton Staffers Told


Federal law enforcement officials maintained Wednesday that more than three dozen White House employees had used cocaine, crack and other illegal hallucinogenic drugs before they were hired and were given security clearances despite concerns about safety at the presidential mansion.

The revelations that as many as 40 of the 1,700 White House employees had used drugs came in sworn depositions and testimony before a House committee investigating alleged misuse by Clinton administration officials of FBI files on employees from former Republican presidencies.

Three federal law enforcement officials who serve as special agents and supervisors in the Secret Service detail at the White House said that background checks and interviews in 1993 and 1994 turned up other problems as well, such as employees cleared for employment who had not paid their taxes.


“Our concerns were that we felt that the derogatory information was such that it may compromise the security of the White House,” said Arnold A. Cole, a Secret Service supervisor.

Cole and two of his colleagues said that they initially recommended denial of security passes to many of the employees with past problems.

They said they were concerned that the drug problems specifically could lead to low productivity, blackmail and other potential breaches of security that could endanger President Clinton and his family at the White House.

But, they said, administration officials cleared the employees after devising a special voluntary drug-testing program to monitor their future activity.

Under questioning by Republicans, Cole said that he did not agree with their suggestions that White House officials have a “relaxed attitude” about Secret Service concerns. Rather, he said, “I would more characterize it as a difference of opinion.

“I am a law enforcement official and my judgment is held to a much higher standard in terms of the safety of the president of the United States,” Cole said. “So I would sooner err on the side of safety to the president as opposed to maybe not being as diligent.”


Earlier this week, government officials maintained that only 21 Clinton White House employees were allowed to continue working after background investigations turned up evidence of drug use within the year before they were hired. Of those, they said, only nine still work at the White House. The workers were subjected to random drug testing and none has tested positive for drug use, the White House said.

Mike McCurry, the White House press spokesman, said that Clinton has maintained an “absolute zero-tolerance standard for drug use at the White House” but also is aware that some employees may have used drugs years ago.

“You know, I’ll tell you, I have myself,” McCurry said. “I was a kid in the 1970s. You know, did I smoke a joint from time to time? Of course I did. And the FBI knows that and that was in my background file.

“But that doesn’t disqualify me from serving here. The point is: If I use drugs now in any way, shape or form, I’m gone. I’m history.”

McCurry added that “no doubt there were people in previous White Houses that had some indication of drug use in their backgrounds.”

On the presidential campaign trail, Republicans criticized McCurry’s comments as cavalier. “It’s the typical mind-set of the Clinton crowd that everybody did it,” complained William J. Bennett, a former White House drug policy director who was speaking on behalf of GOP presidential hopeful Bob Dole.


At the hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) read from portions of 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.

However, her deposition was not released Wednesday because committee Chairman William F. Clinger Jr. (R-Pa.) said that she had not yet testified before the panel. He did release the depositions taken last week of the three Secret Service officials, because they testified Wednesday.