About those White House Surveillance Cameras

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We’re hearing a lot these days about all those surveillance cameras at the White House after the discovery of that small bag of cocaine and the 11-day “investigation” to determine who left it there that came up empty.  Here is Miranda Devine in her skeptical July 16 article in the New York Post:

Even more astonishing [than the supposed absence of fingerprints on the plastic bag] is that, in a complex bristling with security cameras, the Secret Service said no surveillance video footage exists because the baggie was located in a “blind spot.”

But where, on the day of his death, July 20, 1993, were all those security cameras in the early afternoon when Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster left his office in the West Wing after having had lunch at his desk and then apparently disappearing from the face of the earth for several hours before his body was discovered in Fort Marcy Park just off the George Washington Parkway in Virginia a few miles away?   Here is how we address the matter in the introduction to our 2020 book, The Murder of Vince Foster: America’s Would-Be Dreyfus Affair:

Officially, the last person to see him alive was the uniformed Secret Service officer at the door of the West Wing, with whom he exchanged a pleasantry as he left the White House.  Again, officially, his body would be discovered by a man seeking a place to relieve himself (over 700 feet from the parking lot behind a berm) at the park at around 5:50 pm….

This is information that, for the most part, dribbled out over the ensuing weeks.  At the time, the information provided by the news media was extraordinarily sparse.  The media treated the whole thing as a big mystery, except that from the beginning they labeled it an “apparent suicide.”  Even after a number of the gaps had been filled in by reports on the investigations of the U.S. Park Police, a special prosecutor, and an independent counsel one fairly obvious gap remained.  An outer wall encompasses the White House compound that includes White House proper and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), which was called the Old Executive Office Building at the time.  It was given its current name in 1999.  It is a quite large building, striking in its French Second Empire architectural style.  Most of the people who work for the White House legal office have their offices in the EEOB.  If Foster left without his briefcase saying that he would be back and we know that he left the White House, the most likely assumption to make is that he was going over to the EEOB to meet with someone.  The fact that no one investigating Foster’s death—and that includes Christopher Ruddy with his articles and book—has seen fit even to broach the subject might well be the dog that didn’t bark, as in the “Silver Blaze” Sherlock Holmes short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The likelihood is very great that Foster left the White House compound in the company of at least one other person.  (pp. vi-vii, link to Ruddy’s book added)

At this point we have a long footnote:

Senator Alfonse D’Amato (Rep. NJ) showed that he realized the time of Foster’s departure from the White House compound was fundamental when, in hearings before the committee that he chaired, he asked FBI agent William Columbell when Foster’s car was logged out.  Foster had a reserved space, but Columbell replied that Foster did not use it on the day of his death, then quickly added that they knew he left between 1:00 and 1:15 pm, without saying how they knew.  D’Amato then dropped that line of questioning, not asking anything about what the surveillance record might have shown and not positing the likelihood that Foster’s daughter drove him to work in her Honda Accord (later claimed to be the car seen at Fort Marcy Park) and that Foster left as a passenger in someone else’s car.  (Senate Whitewater Committee, July 29, 1994, vol. 1, p. 50)

We pick up this thread again in the second chapter:

Ruddy also makes much of the mystery of the five-hour gap between the time Foster was last seen at the White House and when Foster’s body was found at Fort Marcy Park. When part of that mystery might have been resolved, he effectively blocked it. In 1994 a colleague of mine working for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington who once worked for the CIA-contract company, the Mitre Corporation, told me that they had installed the security equipment around the White House and that it was so sharp that it could tell how close an arriving driver had shaved that morning. Surely, there would be a video record of Foster leaving the White House, he told me, if, indeed, he left under his own power. I passed this information on to Ruddy, and he came back with the news that “his White House source said there was no such equipment.” They had been there but they had been taken out at Bill Clinton’s request because they cramped his carousing style, he told me in so many words.  In retrospect I believe that source was about as dependable as the source that told him that Foster was left-handed and that the Park Police had taken no crime scene photographs. The very notion that the White House, of all places, would have no surveillance record of its grounds is, I believe, utterly preposterous. A call in 1994 for those records for the afternoon of July 20, 1993, to be produced might have brought some serious heat on the White House, but, thanks to Mr. Ruddy and his source—if there ever was one—no such call was made, and it is doubtless too late to do any good now.

As late as 2018, when Independent Counsel Ken Starr published Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, the big gap in the coverage of what happened on that day remained.  Here’s what I had to say about it in my 2021 review, “Ken Starr’s Contempt for Your Intelligence”:

In the pitifully little attention Starr gives to the actual details of the Foster death case, he manages to get some facts wrong:

“Shortly after lunch on July 20, Foster grabbed his coat; bade farewell to his executive assistant in the White House Counsel’s office, Linda Tripp; gave her some mints from the White House Mess, and left.

“Tripp was the last known person in the White House complex to see Vince alive.” (p. 68)

Tripp was not “his” executive assistant; as the office executive assistant, she was Bernard Nussbaum’s executive assistant.  The “mints” were actually M & M’s that came with the cheeseburger that Foster ate for lunch.  And, officially, Tripp was not the last known person in the White House complex to see Foster alive.  That was the uniformed Secret Service officer at the West Wing door, John S. Skyles, who exchanged pleasantries with Foster as he left.

These are really just small technicalities, though. The very important point missed by Starr and by all of the press accounts is that when Foster left the White House proper, he had not yet left the White House compound.  It is a point that has also been overlooked, no doubt intentionally, by the various “investigations” that have taken place of Foster’s death.  The large Eisenhower Executive Office Building a few steps to the west is also within the compound, and it houses most of the White House staff, including those of the White House legal staff, of which Foster was a part.  For Foster to leave his office without saying where he was going, and then to go out the West Wing exit, the most likely conclusion is that he was going over to the big building next door for some sort of meeting.  From there, he likely left the White House compound in the company of someone else as a passenger in that person’s vehicle.

We say that because FBI agent William Columbell testified before the Senate Whitewater Committee on July 29, 1994, that Foster’s car was never parked in its allotted space in the White House compound on July 20, 1993, the day of his death, and the key witness in the case, Patrick Knowlton, who drove his car into the parking lot for Fort Marcy Park for an emergency urination by a nearby tree, described a Honda Accord with Arkansas plates quite different in age and color from the one that belonged to the Foster family.  The White House compound security cameras would have shown exactly when, and likely with whom, Foster left the compound, but that was a point that neither Starr and his investigative team, the FBI, the Senate Whitewater investigators, nor any member of our stellar press ever raised.

We hardly need the keen reporter Miranda Devine and former New York Post reporter and now head of Newsmax, Chris Ruddy, to tell us that there’s been a cover-up in the case of that discovered bag of cocaine.  It’s less important, though, than the cover-up of the obvious in-house murder of Bill Clinton’s deputy White House counsel.  A major indicator of the greater importance of Vince Foster’s murder is that its cover-up enjoyed the participation of our entire news media, across what passes for the full range of the political spectrum.  The degree to which that scandal envelops all the Washington establishment is revealed by the fact that Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court upon the recommendation of Chris Ruddy, and Kavanaugh was the young subordinate of Ken Starr who was the principal author of Starr’s cover-up report on Foster’s death.  Prior to that, Kavanaugh had been made a federal judge by President George W. Bush.

David Martin

3 Thoughts to “About those White House Surveillance Cameras”

  1. DDearborn


    This “surveillance camera” scam has become a reoccurring and painfully obvious lie.

    60+ cameras covering every inch of the exterior and Pentagon somehow managed to catch ZERO clear images of the alleged aircraft that supposedly struck in the exact spot, in fact the only spot where repairs were being made to the exterior to the Pentagon opening up a weak spot. And oh by the way it was also the exact location of the Office of Naval Investigations which held all the files and investigators trying to find the missing 2.3 TRILLION from the Pentagon. Only a few seconds of 1 blurry image from 1 camera was ever released to the public…

    60+ cameras in and around the Capital Building which hold damning evidence of Pelosi colluding with the FBI to conjure up a a phony “armed insurrection” that was blamed on the Republican opposition. Only hand picked and heavily edited snips of thousands of hours of tape have been released to the public. NONE of the proof of that collusion that is contained in countless video’s was shown to the public until nearly 3 years after the fact…Again, only snippets of film is being released to ensure that the guilty democrats and FBI are protected…

    Fool me once…..fool me 3 times and the stupid and ignorant citizenry get what they still can’t see is heading straight for them…

    1. Alan 'Doc' Cheney

      And do what?

      1. I’m somewhat puzzled by the comment, but I believe the best rejoinder to it is in the quote from Thomas Merton that I have leading off the “Columns” section of my home page:

        “I am more and more impressed by the fact that it is largely futile to get up and make statements about current problems. At the same time, I know that silent acquiescence in evil is also out of the question.”

        Faith and Violence, 1968


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