Washington (CNSNews.com) -
Computer specialists employed by Northrop Grumman to administer the White House e-mail
system told a House committee Thursday they felt intimidated by White House personnel and
were threatened with loss of security clearances and jail terms after a software glitch
was discovered that affected thousands of e-mails, some of which are under federal and
congressional subpoena in several White House scandals.
Betty Lambuth, a former White House subcontractor for Northrop Grumman, told the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee that after she told the White House of the discovery of the lost e-mails she was told she would not only lose her job but would also be put in jail if she told of the finding.
Another Northrop Grumman employee, Robert Haas testified before the committee that he was told by White House personnel that if he even spoke to his wife about the lost e-mails there would be "a jail cell" with his name on it.
The White House had conducted the search to comply with various federal and congressional subpoenas, and until the Northrop Grumman workers discovered the computer glitch, the White House staffers reportedly did not realize that thousands of possibly relevant documents had been left out of that search.
It's what those White House staffers did after they learned about the glitch that the Committee is investigating.
Six of the Northrop Grumman employees are spending Thursday testifying before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana).
Haas in his opening statement before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee told about his discovery of the e-mail problem, which he called "Mail-2."
Haas said he was called into a meeting, attended by two White House staffers - Laura Crabtree and Mark Lindsey, the latter attending the meeting via a conference call.
"Mr. Lindsey told us that the discovery of the Mail-2 problem was to be treated as top secret," Haas said. "Mr. Lindsey specifically told us not to talk to Steve Hawkins, the project manager for Northrop Grumman and our ultimate supervisor on site."
Haas told the committee that "in a somewhat flippant way," Haas told the Committee he asked what would happen to him if he did tell his wife about his discovery of the "unretrieved" e-mails. "Miss Crabtree responded that there would be a jail cell with my name on it," Haas testified.
Haas told the Committee he got the impression that "they were very serious about their warnings."
In opening the hearing Burton told the Northrop Grumman workers, "the facts we want are these: When did you find out that there was a [computer] glitch? As I understand it, it was 1996." And the second area of interest, said Burton: "What happened at that meeting with Miss Crabtree and Mr. Lindsey on the phone?"
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