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Programme two : Promise v Threat

Sunday 5 August, 1925BST BBC Two
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Monica Lewinsky says she no longer trusts the internet following her infamous affair with President Clinton.

She wrote about their liaisons in numerous incriminating e-mails, which she wrongly believed she had destroyed forever.

But investigator Kenneth Starr was able to trace the deleted correspondence as far back as two years.

He then used the messages - including e-mail recovered from both her home and Pentagon computer - against Mr Clinton during his impeachment hearing in 1999.

Monica, who sent the e-mails to her once-trusted confidante Linda Tripp, now rarely uses e-mails except for business.

"The Big Creep"

Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton

She says: "They were things that I thought I had deleted. I certainly came to see that obviously I was wrong."

"While you may think it's deleted, it isn't. I mean it's there permanently."

"My best friend and I had our e-mails published because they somewhat related to the investigation", Monica Lewinsky.  real 56k

She adds: "That's also the same with some of the internet providers - they keep a copy of everything you send. You may think something is not trackable and it is."

Her e-mails to friends included one saying: "The Big Creep didn't even try to call me on V-day (Valentine's Day)."

Another read: "I want to hug him so bad right now I could cry."

She sent another during the time when Clinton was trying to find her a job away from Washington where rumours of their affair were rife.

In it, she described a meeting with "the big creep's best friend". This was an apparent reference to Vernon Jordan, one of the former president's aides.

The e-mail continued: "He said, with regard to my job search, 'You're in business.' He also said the Creep had talked to him, and as I was leaving he said, 'You come highly recommended.' Tee hee hee."


In an interview about privacy on the net for BBC Two's The Future is Now series about the internet, Monica says she believes people ought to be more aware of the security risks.

And she says the experience has cost her dearly, explaining: "I think privacy is sort of one of those things that you don't think about until it's been violated, a bit like anonymity."

She adds: "I think that there isn't enough information out there for people who are on the internet to be fully aware of exactly what they can be getting themselves into."

"I think privacy is sort of one of those things that you don't think about until it's been violated", Monica Lewinsky.  real 56k

She no longer e-mails friends and says: "I think maybe in a few years when I feel that my life is sort of all my own, I might feel more comfortable."

Monica, who now runs her own online company selling women's handbags, admits that there are obvious advantages to the internet.

She says: "As an entrepreneur on the internet, you've got a store that is open 24 hours a day, in every city all over the world and everybody can access it."

Oliver North

Oliver North

Other high profile figures that have learned the hard way about leaked e-mails include Oliver North.

In the mid-1980s, the Tower Commission used back-up files of Colonel Oliver North's e-mail to chronicle the Iran-Contra scandal.

North thought he had deleted electronic messages regarding his assistance in providing arms to Nicaraguan rebels, but it turned out that he had neglected to eliminate the back-up copies.

758 e-mail messages were sent, involving him in the Iran-Contra affair, and every one of them was recovered.

Police officer Laurence Powell, implicated in the 1991 beating of Rodney King, is another who found his electronic missive coming back to haunt him. His exact words were: "Oops, I haven't beaten anyone this bad in a long time."

President Bush

Three days before his inauguration on 20 January of this year, President Bush sent a final e-mail to friends saying: "Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace."

Confidentiality on the internet is a growing cause for concern with many companies now archiving staff e-mail.

One solution is to use a web-based e-mail account if you intend to send sensitive messages.

Encryption is another answer. But only five to ten percent of all electronic messages sent over the internet are encrypted.

Extracts from this interview with Monica Lewinsky can be seen in the second of Michael Lewis's The Future is Now series - Sunday, 5 August, BBC Two at 1925BST.

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