Certain truths were glossed over in your Aug. 30 report on David M. Barrett. Though the subhead read "Independent Counsel Has Unusual Past," the only unusual past this independent counsel has is that his business dealings were scrutinized and no wrongdoing was even alleged.
In addition, as a friend of his says at the article's conclusion, "Dave Barrett is a good, decent guy."
The essence of the article could be wrapped up in those two sentences; however, the author chooses to connect the essence with a melange of innuendoes and political buzz words (deal maker, lobbyist).
Dave Barrett is married to his original wife (the mother of all of his children). Dave Barrett is an honorably discharged naval officer. Dave Barrett is a highly regarded former assistant United States attorney. Dave Barrett clerked for a distinguished federal judge in the District of Columbia. Dave Barrett was a distinguished teacher and lecturer at several law schools. Dave Barrett, while counsel to the House Ethics Committee, was widely praised by both parties for his objective and even handling of the investigation of the late Rep. Daniel Flood.
To Barrett's credit, in fairness to Cisneros, "no comment" has been his reply and that of his staff. Barrett lets his words speak for themselves in open court.
An objective account of the investigation of Secretary Cisneros will undoubtedly record that it was conducted in a professional and confidential manner. History will not be so kind to your paper as it once again has an agenda unconnected with objective reporting.
-- Michael C. Conway
The writer is a former associate independent
counsel in the case.
Your article on David M. Barrett, the independent counsel charged with investigating former housing secretary Henry Cisneros, belongs in a journalism textbook as a classic smear-by-innuendo piece. Reporter Dan Morgan's story is full of hints, code words and thinly veiled suggestions that Barrett was somehow unqualified for or inappropriate to conduct the Cisneros investigation. Unfortunately, few readers will analyze the article carefully. If they do, they will see that there is no substance to the suspicions contained therein. But most readers will assume that there is something wrong with Barrett. That is the beauty of innuendo.
Let me present the following facts:
(1) Barrett's past private law practice included clients with interests in federal housing. As did virtually every lawyer in Washington in that category, he therefore had acquaintances and clients who were exposed to the decade-long independent counsel investigation of Sam Pierce's Department of Housing and Urban Development. But, as your paper acknowledges, no "wrongdoing was ever alleged against Barrett." Indeed, after a marathon investigation, Barrett's "name was not mentioned in the [final] report" of that investigation.
(2) The article implies that it was somehow inappropriate for Barrett to be appointed to investigate Cisneros because Barrett's law practice involved housing. But it is hardly irrational or inappropriate to appoint a lawyer with federal housing experience to investigate the HUD secretary. More important, Cisneros was charged with lying to the FBI about his relationship with a former mistress. Barrett's investigation had nothing to do with federal housing employees or policies.
(3) The article paints Barrett as a "Republican activist," but the most recent Republican political activity by Barrett mentioned in the article is his involvement in Lawyers for Reagan in 1980. Are lawyers who supported Ronald Reagan in 1980 to be disqualified from investigating President Clinton's Cabinet appointees?
(4) The article strives to make something of the fact that Barrett was once listed as a director of a company he formed for a client, a company later investigated by another independent counsel. But lawyers routinely list themselves as founding directors for companies they form as an accommodation to clients. There is not even a hint that Barrett's conduct in regard to this company was inappropriate.
(5) I am not in a position to comment on the merits of Barrett's investigation of Cisneros. But I know that I reflect the views of many experienced Washington lawyers of both political parties when I say that Barrett is a decent, honorable and conscientious man and a careful, skilled, experienced and widely respected lawyer. He conducted his investigation of Cisneros quietly, employing skilled and highly regarded professional prosecutors led by a Democrat. A judge and jury are the only ones that can evaluate the evidence and determine whether charges have merit. Your story contributed nothing constructive to that process.
-- Theodore B. Olson
The writer was deputy attorney general in
the Reagan administration.