Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ah, Trent Lott...Who'd A Thunk It?

Congress may probe leaks in CIA prisons story

WASHINGTON - Top U.S. Republican lawmakers are seeking a congressional investigation into leaks of information used by The Washington Post in an article on the CIA's secret global prison system, congressional aides said on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert in a draft letter asked the intelligence committees to "immediately initiate a joint investigation into the possible release of classified information."

Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott told reporters he thought information for the story may have come from a Republican Senate staffer.

"There's no question that there was a discussion to a Washington Post reporter by a staff person who apparently knew everything that went on there last Tuesday," Lott said, referring to a Senate Republican meeting last week.

"I just think we spend too much time around here chasing rabbits," Lott said. "You give 10 senators information it's going to get out, so what are you going to prove here?"

Democrats said instead of just investigating possible leaks related to that story, Republicans should be clearing the way for a broad investigation on detainee abuses and whether intelligence was manipulated before the Iraq war.

"If the speaker and the majority leader in the Senate are interested in this, they should join with us in getting to the bottom of what went on in bringing this country to war," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

The Washington Post reported last week that the CIA has been holding and interrogating al Qaeda captives at a secret facility in Eastern Europe, part of a global covert prison system established after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The Bush administration has not confirmed or denied the report.

"The leaking of classified information is a serious matter. It ought to be taken seriously," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "But this is a congressional prerogative and it was a decision that was made by those leaders and that's the way I would describe it."


In their draft letter, which aides said has not yet been sent, Frist of Tennessee and Hastert of Illinois said they wanted the intelligence committees to determine if the information given to the newspaper was classified and accurate, who leaked it and under what authority, and the actual and potential national security damage from it.

Asked whether the Republican leaders would seek an investigation of the secret prisons, Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman, said, "First we're looking into why we have people leaking classified information."

Democrats and some Republicans have cited The Washington Post story as another reason Congress must set rules for the treatment of military detainees in the wake of the scandal over physical and sexual abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The Senate has passed an amendment barring torture of detainees and setting standards for their treatment and interrogations, despite the White House's threat to veto a $440 billion defense spending bill if it contained the measure.

The House has not yet voted on that measure.

President George W. Bush has been dogged by questions over the Pentagon's and the CIA's treatment of terrorism suspects. Responding to questions on Monday in Panama, Bush said, "We do not torture," and defended his administration's efforts to stop Congress from imposing rules on prisoner treatment.

Asked if she knew about secret CIA prisons in her previous post as national security adviser to the president, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not answer the question.

Instead, without confirming or denying the existence of secret U.S. prisons, Rice said the United States fought militants around the world in what she called a "different kind of war" according with U.S. laws and its long-standing values.

The administration also has been hit by the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on five counts of obstructing justice, perjury and lying in the two-year probe into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity after her husband criticized the Iraq war.

(additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Thomas Ferraro and Caren Bohan)

Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures


Post a Comment

<< Home