by Alexander Bolton
October 16, 2007
Republicans plan to seize on an allegation from the 1992 presidential
campaign to tarnish Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on the red-hot
issue of government surveillance.
Government surveillance will be at the forefront of the political debate
this fall as congressional Democrats and President Bush square off over
legislation allowing electronic spying on U.S. soil without a warrant.
Republicans are focusing on an allegation in a recent book by two Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporters, which suggests Clinton listened to a secretly
recorded conversation between political opponents.
In their book about Clinton’s rise to power,
Her Way, Don Van Natta Jr., an
investigative reporter at The New York Times, and Jeff Gerth, who spent 30
years as an investigative reporter at the paper, wrote:
activities ranged from the inspirational to the microscopic to the down and
dirty. She received memos about the status of various press inquiries; she
vetted senior campaign aides; and she listened to a secretly recorded
audiotape of a phone conversation of Clinton critics plotting their next
“The tape contained discussions of another woman who might surface with
allegations about an affair with Bill,” Gerth and Van Natta wrote in
reference to Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.
supporters monitored frequencies used by cell phones, and the tape was made
during one of those monitoring sessions.”
GOP official said,
“Hillary Clinton’s campaign hypocrisy continues to know
no bounds. It is rather unbelievable that Clinton would listen in to
conversations being conducted by political opponents, but refuse to allow
our intelligence agencies to listen in to conversations being conducted by
terrorists as they plot and plan to kill us. Team Clinton can expect to see
and hear this over and over again over the course of the next year.”
Gerth told The Hill that he learned of the incident in 2006 when he
interviewed a former campaign aide present at the tape playing. He has not
revealed the aide’s identity.
Clinton’s campaign has not disputed any facts
reported in the final version of his book, which became public this spring,
“It hasn’t been challenged,” said Gerth. “There hasn’t been one fact in the
book that’s been challenged.”
Clinton’s spokesman panned the book but declined to discuss the allegation
that Clinton had reviewed secretly recorded calls.
“We don’t comment on
books that are utter and complete failures,” said Clinton’s press secretary,
Her Way’s Amazon.com sales rank is 43,016.
Several legal experts said it was illegal to intercept cell phone
conversations in 1992.
“It’s been clear that since 1986 it was illegal to intercept an individual
cell phone call,” said Barry Steinhardt, the director of the technology and
liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union.
In 1986, Congress broadened wiretapping law to prohibit the interception of
electronic communications, as well as the use or disclosure of intercepted
Two court cases have since cited that action in
ruling the interception of cell phone communications illegal:
Company v. United States, 2003
Clinton has made privacy an issue on the campaign trail.
In July, she
discussed her privacy bill of rights in a speech to the American
Constitution Society. The proposed rights, ensconced in the Protect Act,
include the right to sue when privacy rules have been violated; the right to
protect phone records; and the right to freeze credit in the event of
During the same speech, she addressed the controversy over government
“Every president should save those powers for limited, critical situations,”
said Clinton, according to a copy of the speech posted on her campaign
“And when it comes to a regular program of searching for
information that touches the privacy of ordinary Americans, those programs
need to be monitored and reviewed as set out by Congress in cooperation with
“That is the essence of the compact we have with each other and with our
government, and we cannot ignore it.”
In August, Clinton voted against an emergency law that temporarily expanded
the government’s power to conduct surveillance on American soil without a
The bill was criticized for being overly broad and sidelining the
role of a special court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The Senate’s other Democratic presidential candidates,
...also voted against the
Clinton’s chief political strategist, Mark Penn, became embroiled recently
in a controversy over intercepted electronic communications. Mitchell
Markel, a former vice president at Penn’s firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland,
filed a lawsuit against Penn accusing him of intercepting e-mail.
claimed that the firm illegally monitored messages sent from his BlackBerry
after he joined another company.
Markel dropped the suit in July after reaching a settlement with
Schoen & Berland.