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The House will vote on a resolution today or Thursday that is expected to criticize The New York Times for its recent disclosure of the government’s secret use of information from a massive international finance network to fight terrorism.
At press time Tuesday, the resolution was still being drafted by a handful of different committees under the direction of Majority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office. Republican sources said they expected the finished product would condemn both the leaking of the law enforcement program and its publication by the Times and a handful of other newspapers.
A House vote would mark only the latest Republican offensive against last week’s story, which detailed the Treasury Department’s use of information from the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
The White House lobbied the Times and other newspapers not to publish their stories, and the administration has been vocal in its criticism since they appeared in print.
President Bush himself said Monday that the disclosure “makes it harder to win this war on terror,” and Vice President Cheney also joined the chorus of complaints.
House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) has called for an “investigation and prosecution” of the Times, and other Republicans have used similarly harsh language, making it likely that the vast majority of Republicans will vote for today’s resolution.
What is less clear is how House Democrats will react. Both Democratic leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers have complained in the past about the administration’s conduct of the war on terrorism, particularly after The New York Times disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was listening to some domestic phone calls without a warrant.
But in the case of the SWIFT story, most Democratic leaders have been noticeably silent. The administration even enlisted some Democrats, reportedly including Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) and ex-Rep. Lee Hamilton (Ind.), to try to lobby the Times not to publish its piece.