An independent prosecutor issued an apology Thursday to Bush administration officials caught up in the investigation of a 1992 search of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton's passport files.
While some of their actions were "stupid, dumb and partisan," they were not criminal, independent counsel Joseph diGenova concluded after a three-year, $2.2-million investigation.
At the same time, diGenova harshly accused former State Department Inspector General Sherman Funk of sloppiness and said the case should never have been referred for prosecution.
The independent counsel law, he said, should be reserved for "when you have a threat to the structure of government and the separation of powers," such as the 1970s Watergate scandal and the 1980s Iran-Contra affair.
"I wish to issue a governmental apology to Janet Mullins and all the other individuals who were caught up in this regrettable incident at the height of the 1992 presidential campaign," he told a news conference. They were dragged on "a Kafkaesque journey" that should never have happened, said diGenova.
Mullins, the primary target, was White House political director when rumors surfaced that Clinton had, while a student in England, sought information on how to renounce his U.S. citizenship.
Those involved have run up huge legal bills. The independent counsel law provides for government reimbursement of some money for those not charged.