Release of Senate Leak Probe Report Delayed

Posted March 1, 2004 at 6:29pm

With more computer forensic evidence to review, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office has pushed back the release of its report on the leaked-memo probe at the Judiciary Committee.

An aide to Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle said Monday that the report, which was originally slated to be delivered that day, might not be given to Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the panel’s ranking member, until later this week or early next week.

“We’re still hopeful that it’s going to be this week,” the aide said.

The investigation began in mid-November after more than a dozen memos from Judiciary Democrats from 2001, 2002 and early 2003 were leaked to a few media outlets and conservative Web sites.

Pickle brought in a handful of agents from the Secret Service, as well as the help of computer experts from General Dynamics, to conduct the high-tech investigation.

Part of the delay has been caused by additional computer forensic evidence for the General Dynamics team to handle, the aide said, although she could not comment regarding what the evidence was or when it arrived. In addition, the investigators were still conducting interviews with those potentially involved in the matter.

“There are a few more people they are talking to,” the aide said.

Leahy said he was hopeful to get a briefing from Pickle, along with Hatch, Wednesday or Thursday.

After that initial briefing, Hatch and Leahy will decide the procedure for showing the report to all Judiciary members, most likely coming in a closed-door executive session.

Leahy, who was informed of the delay in the report over the weekend, said he didn’t believe there was a major new shift in the case.

“Not that I’m aware of, but I haven’t seen the report,” he said.

One of the last-minute interviews came Thursday, when Pickle’s agents met with Manuel Miranda, a former Judiciary Committee staffer who went to work as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) top adviser on judicial nominations a year ago.

Miranda, who has been interviewed three times by Pickle’s aides, resigned last month after admitting he read a fraction of the thousands of Democratic documents that were apparently downloaded by a legislative staff assistant, who has also resigned.

Miranda has contended that the memos were accessed through a server jointly shared by Republicans and Democrats and that Democratic staff — who were in the majority at the time — overlooked warnings from GOP staff about the ability of both parties’ aides to read one another’s memos.

On Monday, Miranda cited a statement circulated by conservatives from a former intern to the committee who worked for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who was the ranking member on the crime subcommittee in 2001 and 2002.

The former intern, whose name was redacted from the affidavit-style document given to Roll Call, claimed he worked on Grassley’s Judiciary subcommittee beginning in October 2001 and quickly discovered that he could access Democratic memos.

He said he let his “office colleagues” know about the problem and also told a few Secret Service agents who were detailed to Grassley’s subcommittee. However, aides to Grassley said Monday that senior staff on the subcommittee do not ever recall being alerted to the problem and it was therefore never dealt with.

But Miranda, who said the affidavit backed up his claims, released his own statement that labeled “Democratic spinmeisters” as “rank liars” and comparing Pickle and GOP leaders to “Inspector Javert” of “Les Miserables” for pursuing the investigation.

Miranda said there was no gentleman’s etiquette, as Hatch has suggested, that should have prevented him from looking at the documents, which detailed strategy sessions liberal Senators on Judiciary held with outside activist groups.

“If this matter comes down to the golden rule or gentleman’s etiquette, then the American people will consider Republicans lacking in both schmartz and cojones,” Miranda said.

Following up on a letter they sent to the White House counsel’s office, Leahy and three senior Democrats on Judiciary released Monday a letter they sent to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking him if any Justice officials had knowledge of or had seen the Judiciary Democrats’ memos.

When President Bush’s nominees get prepared for Judiciary Committee hearings, aides from the White House counsel’s office, Justice and the Judiciary Committee help prepare the nominee. Leahy wants to know if any of the thousands of taken memos were used by these officials for preparations for the hearings.