Independent counsel Joseph E. diGenova yesterday called the 1992 preelection search of then-candidate Bill Clinton's passport file by Bush administration officials "stupid, dumb and partisan." But he said the government owed an apology to those who subsequently "were unjustly accused of violating the law."

Releasing the final report on his three-year, $2.2 million investigation, diGenova sharply criticized as "not competent" the State Department inspector general's inquiry that resulted in a criminal referral to Justice and led to his appointment.

State Department investigators, diGenova told reporters, irresponsibly alleged that former Bush White House aide Janet G. Mullins had made contradictory statements in a telephone call and subsequent interview.

"We would not be here today if people in the {State Department's} inspector general's office had done their job," diGenova said.

Mullins, diGenova said, had "been through hell" because neither State Department then-Inspector General Sherman M. Funk, nor the Justice Department public integrity staff and then-Attorney General William P. Barr took the time to compare the investigators' notes with their reports before seeking an independent counsel criminal investigation of her.

New details on the 1992 passport case involving James A. Baker III, Bush's White House chief of staff and former secretary of state, and other prominent White House and Bush campaign officials are contained in the 453-page diGenova report and 375 pages of supplementary material.

In the summer of 1992, there were rumors that Clinton, while a Rhodes scholar in England, had written a letter about renouncing his American citizenship to protest the Vietnam War. Baker "may have indirectly contributed to the impetus of the search for Clinton's files," according to the diGenova report, because he asked Mullins "to check on the status' " of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that journalists had sent to the State Department.

Baker told investigators that FOIA requests concerning Clinton were discussed by Robert Teeter, chairman of the Bush-Quayle 1992 reelection campaign, at a White House "core group" meeting on Sept. 16, 1992, according to the report. After that session, the report states, Baker asked White House counsel C. Boyden Gray "whether the White House could expedite the response to a FOIA request at the FBI."

Gray told investigators that Baker told him any documentation that could substantiate the rumors would be "politically damaging," the report said. Gray said he asked an official at Justice whether the FBI request could be expedited and was told it could not. He was also told that releasing information contained in personal files would violate the federal privacy act.

The Justice official, then-Assistant Attorney General Timothy Flanigan, told investigators that he and Gray also discussed "whether someone could examine Clinton's passport files as part of a national security background check," according to the report. That idea was dropped as "improper" after they learned that Clinton, as a presidential candidate, had already received confidential national security briefings.

Sometime after the Sept. 16 meeting, Baker asked Mullins to check into FOIA requests at the State Department, where Mullins was an assistant secretary in charge of legislative affairs.

"Baker's request added emphasis to the effort to locate the files," the report states. Because the original FOIA requests had been made in late September, the report said, it was "unlikely that the State Department would have otherwise searched for the files, much less located them, in time to respond before the presidential election on Nov. 3."

Nonetheless, the report concludes, "Baker's partisan motives did not amount to criminal motives . . . {and he} did not ask Mullins to do anything improper or illegal."

The day after the passport records were found and reviewed, Baker called Lawrence S. Eagleburger, then acting secretary of state. Baker, who had been told by Gray that release of any information about Clinton's file would violate federal privacy law, recalled telling Eagleburger to "be careful that there is no political monkey business or overexuberance at the State Department," according to the report.

Eagleburger, on the other hand, only remembered Baker telling him over the phone that he "did not have to do what they ask." And when the acting secretary of state responded that he did not understand what Baker was talking about, he recalled Baker saying, "if you don't know, let's just forget it." Two months later after the investigation was underway, Eagleburger sent a message to Baker through Brent Scowcroft, the then-national security adviser, saying "he's not going to mention the telephone conversation if he's questioned about it." Nonetheless, Eagleburger later told diGenova's investigators what had occurred, according to the report.

Nothing unusual was found in two searches of Clinton's passport file. But Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Elizabeth M. Tamposi, who had directed the searches, was told that one of her aides believed the records may have been tampered with, the report said. She, in turn, passed the tampering story on to an aide who handled public affairs.

Tamposi then called U.S. Embassy personnel in London to have a search carried out there. Consul General Norbert Krieg told diGenova's investigators that Tamposi said "an FBI investigation of possible tampering was likely." When the passport search first was reported in Newsweek, the thrust was that the FBI was investigating possible tampering with the file.

The report said no information was discovered to show that Bush knew anything about the search before it took place or "any evidence that he directed or encouraged the search."