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Justice Department's Probe of Sen. Shelby

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  • Kasten, Kathy
    Probe of Intercepted Messages Focuses on Shelby Justice Department Investigating Leak of Classified NSA Material Regarding Sept. 11 Attacks By Dana Priest and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2004
      Probe of Intercepted Messages Focuses on Shelby
      Justice Department Investigating Leak of Classified NSA Material Regarding
      Sept. 11 Attacks
      By Dana Priest and Allan Lengel
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Thursday, January 22, 2004; Page A02

      The Justice Department's 18-month investigation into the leak of classified
      intercepted messages is focusing on Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who was
      chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at the time of the
      disclosure, according to a law enforcement official and congressional
      sources.

      A grand jury has been hearing information and has taken the testimony of at
      least two witnesses, including Shelby's former press secretary, sources
      said. The investigation centers on the disclosure in 2002 that the National
      Security Agency had intercepted two messages on the eve of the Sept. 11,
      2001, attacks signaling that something was to happen the next day. The
      cryptic messages were not translated until Sept. 12.

      Shelby has since left the committee and is chairman of the Senate Banking
      Committee. He said in a statement yesterday: "My position on this issue is
      clear and well-known: At no time during my career as a United States Senator
      and, more particularly, at no time during my service as Chairman of the
      Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have I ever knowingly compromised
      classified information.

      "To my knowledge, the same can be said about my staff. We have provided the
      investigation with our full cooperation in the past, and we will continue to
      do so." The statement said Shelby has had no contact with investigators for
      more than a year.

      Shelby's former press secretary, Andrea Andrews, has moved to Texas. Neither
      she nor her attorney could be reached to comment yesterday.

      It was unclear yesterday how close the FBI is to concluding its
      investigation, or for how long it has focused on Shelby.

      On June 19, 2002, CNN, citing "two congressional sources," quoted phrases
      contained in two classified NSA intercepts from Sept. 10, 2001, that hinted
      of an impending terrorist operation. The intercepts included the phrases
      "The match begins tomorrow" and "tomorrow is zero day." This information was
      revealed by NSA's director, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, during a
      closed session of a joint House-Senate panel investigating the Sept. 11
      attacks.

      At the time, Vice President Cheney chastised committee members publicly
      about the disclosure of sensitive information. Critics said the
      administration was trying to stop public disclosure of embarrassing
      information about the lapses in intelligence and security surrounding the
      attacks.
      Cheney's criticism prompted the House and Senate intelligence committees to
      encourage an FBI investigation of themselves. Within two months, FBI agents
      had the phone records, appointment calendars and schedules of 17 senators
      and had questioned more than 100 people, including all 37 members of the
      committee and about 60 staff members.

      The agents typically asked lawmakers and staff members if they were willing
      to take polygraph tests.

      Meanwhile yesterday, Democratic members of key House committees said they
      were frustrated by a lack of information about another leak investigation:
      the FBI's probe of who disclosed the identity of a CIA case officer, Valerie
      Plame, who was undercover.

      In December, seven members of the House asked the Justice Department for a
      progress report on the investigation, launched to find out who told
      columnist Robert D. Novak that Plame is a CIA officer. Plame is married to
      former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of the
      administration's Iraq policies, who concluded during a 2002 CIA-sponsored
      mission to Africa that there was little evidence Saddam Hussein sought
      uranium there. Wilson says he believes his wife's identity was disclosed in
      retaliation for his public discussions of those findings.
      Bush mentioned the alleged Africa-Iraq uranium connection in last year's
      State of the Union address as he built a case for going to war against Iraq.
      The CIA had warned the White House against using that assertion, and
      documents showing a Niger-Iraq link turned out to be forged.
      Members of the House asked the Justice Department how many interviews had
      been conducted and how many remain to be scheduled. The lawmakers, some of
      whom said they fear the department is not pushing hard enough to resolve the
      matter, also wanted to know whether the Bush administration had turned over
      the documents requested.

      The department, in a letter dated Jan. 13, declined to answer the questions,
      citing long-standing policy against revealing information during an
      investigation.

      Yesterday, Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), and the ranking members of the House
      International Relations, Judiciary and Government Reform committees,
      introduced a Resolution of Inquiry, an infrequently used device to compel
      the executive branch to turn over information to Congress.
      The resolution will be introduced in four committees that share jurisdiction
      on the matter. If it is not voted down or acted upon by each committee
      within 14 days, Holt and his co-signers can take the matter to the floor.
      Holt said chances of the resolution passing are "slim" but "at least it
      raises the issue."

      "I certainly don't want to compromise an ongoing investigation," he said. "I
      think this is a way of strengthening the backbone of investigators."

      Co-signers include Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), ranking member of the
      Judiciary Committee, Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) of the International Relations
      Committee and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) of the Government Reform
      Committee
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