For Online Release
By Linton Weeks
House officials are scrambling to fulfill their pledge to release independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's report on the Internet today.
"We're preparing around the clock," said a House staffer last night as lawmakers and hordes of reporters were frantically trying to figure out how to receive copies of the report on paper and on the Internet.
If all goes according to plan, after the House passes a resolution allowing public distribution of the report today, the sergeant at arms will hand over the two original copies delivered Wednesday by Starr's staff to Robin H. Carle, clerk of the House. Carle will copy the report and give the originals to Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and to Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the ranking Democratic member on Judiciary. The clerk will then be responsible for transferring the hefty report to the Internet.
As a hedge against an electronic traffic jam, the clerk is posting the summary on four different Web sites:
Several commercial Web sites, including America Online, Compuserve and Washingtonpost.com, are planning to post the summary as soon as they receive it. Tricia Primrose of America Online said that members can use AOL's parental-control technology to keep youngsters from accessing the document.
It's only logical that Congress would put the summary on the Internet. After all, the mammoth network of computers is playing a greater and greater role in American politics. But some House officials are concerned that public demand will overwhelm the Web sites.
Last night, as rumors spread that the document inadvertently had been posted on "Thomas," the Library of Congress posted the following notice: "The Library of Congress is aware of public statements announcing the availability of the Independent Counsel's report at this site. As yet, the House of Representatives has taken no action regarding the public availability of this report."
As for the process of putting the approximately 500-page document on the Internet, House officials yesterday contacted Starr's office to obtain the report on computer disks. A House aide familiar with the process said that it will take about two hours for the document to be uploaded. A miserly number of hard copies will be passed out to news organizations. In preparation for the madness, many newspaper and television reporters reserved time on photocopy machines at nearby copy shops yesterday.
Andrew Widman, general manager of Kinko's at 1402 New York Ave. NW, received 40 or 50 calls requesting copies of the report. He said he reached a "handshake agreement" with the clerk's office to receive a printout of the summary. He laid down the ground rules last night, initially limiting each person with press credentials to one copy at a cost of $37.01 apiece.
Payment, he instructed employees, will be received in advance.
"We anticipate the potential for chaos and lines and competition," said Widman. "And a normal, profitable business day."
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