Judge: Secret Service Agents Do Not Have To Testify
By Terry Frieden/CNN
WASHINGTON (Jan. 30) -- The federal judge in the Paula Jones lawsuit against President Bill Clinton ruled Friday that Secret Service agents who protect the president do not have to testify about what they may have seen or produce documents.
In Little Rock, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright handed attorneys for Jones a setback for the second day in a row, by quashing four subpoenas that the lawyers had served on Secret Service agents.
The Secret Service had filed a motion strongly opposing efforts by Jones to have protective agents testify about whether they may have witnessed anything, saying the court should recognize a privilege for agents, and that to testify would impair their law enforcement efforts.
Wright, however, gave the Secret Service the legal victory on different grounds, that testimony and documents could possibly compromise the job the agency does. She said the evidence sought by Jones' attorneys "could possibly provide critical information at the core of how the Secret Service actually functions, and provide those with hostile intent toward the President with important information to use in piercing the Secret Service's protection."
Wright cited continued leaks to the news media, saying such continue unauthorized disclosures could damage the functioning of the Secret Service.
Wright also used language similar to the ruling she issued Thursday excluding Monica Lewinsky evidence from the Jones case. She wrote, "As was the case with evidence concerning Monica Lewinsky, the Court acknowledges that evidence concerning the Secret Service might be relevant to the issues in this case. Such evidence is not, however, essential to the core issues in this case."
Wright repeated that the activities of the Secret Service are involved in the criminal investigation by Independent Counsel Ken Starr. Wright said, "Because this Court must generally yield to the interests of an ongoing grand jury investigation the court will defer to the integrity of the government's criminal investigation."
The Little Rock judge did not grant the Secret Service the "privilege" of not testifying against the president in all cases. In her ruling, Wright said, "There is no need to determine the existence or applicability of any privilege, however, as the issues raised by the Secret Service's motion can be resolved on other grounds."
The Secret Service in Washington issued a statement praising the ruling. "We are pleased the court has recognized the Secret Service's critical mission," it read, "and has prohibited access to Secret Service records and personnel. The Secret Service has long maintained the need for confidentiality with the people it protects."