Glacial Whitewater probe

The curtain has finally fallen on the Whitewater investigation, which ran nearly the full course of Bill Clinton's presidency. With a $52 million price tag, it was the most costly independent-counsel investigation in the country's history.

Was it worth it? Only in the spin-off cases it produced.

Robert Ray, who succeeded independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr last year, released a commendably short statement saying "the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt" that Mr. Clinton or his wife had committed any crime in relation to the land case.

Mr. Ray put much of the blame for the drawn-out Whitewater investigation squarely on the White House, citing delays "involving both the production of relevant evidence and the filing of legal claims that were ultimately rejected by the courts."

While one can hear sighs of relief at the White House, in Chappaqua, and in the public square, the administration's record of foot-dragging in the case and the appearance of much political haymaking by former prosecutors remains a sad testimony to the country's abuse of its legal system by those with power.

Yet despite the length of the Whitewater affair, it did help unearth the Lewinsky matter, and produced 21 indictments and 14 convictions in other cases in the Clinton's orbit. And we saw the efforts to muddy the waters that might have been made cleaner through timely up-front airing of the facts by the White House.

Congress must create a more fair and independent means to address issues of potential criminal conduct by our country's top federal officials.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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