EX-SECRET SERVICE AGENT TO GIVE TESTIMONY IN CLINTON SEX PROBE.
The government agreed late Friday to let a former Secret Service agent who worked at the White House answer limited questions before a federal grand jury investigating whether President Clinton had an affair and lied about it.
The agreement does not cover current agents - an important distinction because the Secret Service has long maintained that its agents must be able to guard the nation's presidents without being questioned later about what they see and hear.
The Treasury and Justice departments have been negotiating with Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr's office about what can be asked of agents without jeopardizing their role as presidential protectors. And Attorney General Janet Reno said Friday night that Starr's office has agreed to ``ensure that protective techniques and procedures of the Secret Service are not disclosed.''
Officials refused to elaborate on the questions the retired agent could be asked.
That former agent, Lewis C. Fox, has been quoted in news accounts as saying that while he was on duty at the White House, Monica Lewinsky brought documents to Clinton in the Oval Office several times on weekends. Fox appeared briefly at the grand jury Thursday but did not testify. He is expected back next week.
A Justice Department official, who asked not to be named, said Friday night that no decision has been made regarding the subpoena issued to a current Secret Service officer. Government lawyers and Starr's prosecutors will continue their discussions on that subject.
Reno said the Justice and Treasury departments are committed to ``ensuring that the protective functions of the Secret Service and the safety of the president are not jeopardized by questioning of current and former Secret Service personnel.''
The Secret Service is an arm of the Treasury Department. But it is Justice Department attorneys who have argued on their behalf in negotiations with Starr's office, saying that such interrogation would undermine the trust between any president and the agents who are responsible for his safety.
Those objections have been part of the legal and political criticism of Starr's investigation, centered now on allegations that Clinton had an illicit relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, then tried to conceal it. The president vehemently denies the allegation.
Starr's investigation has been played out in public. There has been a daily parade of willing and unwilling witnesses making their way through a media gantlet for an inquisition before a panel of 23 grand jurors.
They've left behind indelible images: Lewinsky's mother, Marcia Lewis, her lip quivering after a two-day grilling about her daughter's sex life. Betty Currie, her arms tucked in a protective clutch as she waded through the cameras and boom microphones.
And out of Starr's offices has come a raft of subpoenas - for Secret Service officers and for women other than Lewinsky alleged to have had sexual relations with Clinton at some point in his past.