Wall of Silence

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WASHINGTON: With Monica Lewinsky's absence giving the Capital a bit of a breather, the talk has turned to how the Clinton Administration can narrow the scope of Ken Starr's relentless inquiry. And the answer is two words: Executive privilege. Invoking the rights of White House employees on the basis of national security, Washington lawyers say, could delay the independent counsel's investigation and provoke a protracted court battle. "What they are discussing is what witnesses will be able to talk about ... with certain privileges to protect," one official told AP.

Given that President Clinton previously promised to "co-operate fully" with the inquiry, such a move would look disingenuous. And yet, if Starr is planning to subpoena "the entire first floor of the White House," as former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos suggested before his own grand jury testimony Wednesday, an argument could be made that it was the only way to prevent executive paralysis. Ah, the privileges of power.