WASHINGTON — A $90-million class-action lawsuit accuses First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the FBI and others of harming White House employees of previous administrations by mishandling their background files.
"Invasion of privacy is a serious matter involving reputation, emotional well-being, time and expense," Larry Klayman, general counsel and chairman of Judicial Watch Inc., said Friday.
The group, which Klayman described in an interview as "an aggressively conservative watchdog," filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court. The group previously sued successfully for access to the late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown's trade-mission records.
Klayman said Judicial Watch expects the legal proceedings to show that misconduct "was orchestrated from the highest levels" and is part of a pattern of illegal behavior.
The plaintiffs are five former low-level White House employees suing the FBI and White House under the federal Privacy Act.
The lawsuit also invokes common-law invasion of privacy in naming as defendants Hillary Clinton; former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum; D. Craig Livingstone, former director of the office of personnel security; and his employee, Anthony Marceca.
No evidence has come to light indicating that Hillary Clinton was involved in the handling of the FBI personnel files.
The lawsuit said more than 700 former White House employees are members of the class entitled to financial compensation.
"The contents of the FBI file of each member of the class were improperly disclosed by the FBI to Rodham Clinton, Nussbaum, Livingstone, Marceca and the White House," the complaint said.
It said Nussbaum, Livingstone and Marceca went beyond what they were authorized to do in asking the FBI to release confidential files to the White House.
"These actions were taken at the direction" of the first lady, the lawsuit said, "to obtain potentially embarrassing and-or damaging information on former Bush and Reagan administration personnel and not for any proper or legal purpose."
The three counts in the complaint charge violation of the privacy act by the FBI and the White House and invasion of privacy by Mrs. Clinton, Nussbaum, Livingstone and Marceca.