White House turns over documents under protest
WASHINGTON -- The White House gave a Senate committee Tuesday more than 2,100 pages of documents under subpoena related to contacts with Enron officials while protesting their handling by the panel's Democratic chairman.
The chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., promised to protect the documents by imposing "extraordinary security precautions" -- including keeping them in a locked room equipped with an alarm.
Under an agreement with the White House, only a limited number of committee staff will have access to the room and those who do must sign confidentiality agreements, Lieberman said.
The documents, filling one box and one accordion folder, were transferred to the committee in the early evening, after the panel's noon deadline had passed.
White House officials said the documents comprised an initial response to the two subpoenas the committee issued on May 22, one to President Bush's office, the other to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. The offices of Bush and Cheney said they were still receiving documents from employees.
Hours after the Democratic-controlled Senate committee voted on party lines to subpoena the documents, the White House provided summaries of dozens of contacts between Enron executives and Bush administration officials, including Cheney. There were at least 60 Enron-related meetings and phone calls involving presidential aides, though the exact number is unclear because the information is vague.
"I'm pleased the White House has begun to deliver the documents I believe are necessary to conduct a complete investigation into the government's oversight of Enron," Lieberman said in a statement.
The White House officials said they were concerned about security of the documents, which contain information such as Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses of government officials, communications among government employees, and confidential business information. They had wanted an agreement with the committee on safeguarding the materials before turning them over.
The two sides tried Monday and Tuesday to work out an arrangement, after Lieberman extended by 24 hours the noon Monday deadline for handing over the documents under Congress' first subpoenas to the Bush White House.