Springfield State Journal Register

February 10, 2004

Durbin accused of leaking information


WASHINGTON - A Republican Senate staffer who resigned last week as a result of an investigation into leaked computer memos belonging to Sen. Dick Durbin and other Democrats has alleged that Durbin himself might be the target of an investigation of leaked classified material.

Durbin, a Springfield resident, said the accusation is "absolutely untrue. I'm not under investigation for anything, and I've never released classified information."

The charge was reported Monday by the Illinois Leader, a conservative online publication.

The Illinois Leader printed a Feb. 9 letter reportedly written by Manuel Miranda, who handled judicial matters for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., until he resigned last week.

While he was working for the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Miranda said, thousands of documents belonging to Democrats were accessed by a young GOP staffer, many more than the 14 that caused a stir among conservatives when they were leaked to the media last fall.

Miranda said he had read only a small percentage of those. But Miranda argued that accessing the memos was not a legal or ethical violation anyway, because "there is no privacy expectation to documents on a government server."

Miranda didn't name Durbin in his letter. But he wrote that

"among the great ironies in this matter is that two senators most vocal on this matter are currently themselves under investigation for unlawfully leaking truly classified material ... "

The Illinois Leader said the statement was believed to be referring to Durbin and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

"Anyone who prints what Miranda said is printing a lie," Durbin said in a statement issued by his office. It's absolutely untrue. I'm not under investigation for anything, and I've never released classified information."

Two years ago, the FBI launched an investigation into leaks by House and Senate Intelligence Committee members of classified information related to the war in Iraq. The investigators sought records of phone calls to the press, but they never interviewed Durbin, Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said Miranda's accusation was "outrageous," adding that it might have been the result of having just lost his job.

"I don't think you have to be more than 3 years old to understand that that's wrong," Shoemaker said. "You don't take other people's stuff. If this is the person who was in charge of the Republican nomination process and he doesn't grasp what's wrong and what's right, I'm not sure that him being gone isn't a good thing for the process."

The Senate Sergeant of Arms undertook an investigation at the request of Durbin and Kennedy after memos outlining Democratic strategy on judicial nominees were leaked to the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.

Conservatives said the memos show the Democrats are working closely with liberal groups to decide which judicial nominees to block. Conservatives recently have criticized Hatch for agreeing to the investigation, which is expected to conclude later this month.

Durbin and three other senators were updated on the investigation in a closed-door session Monday, but Durbin declined to comment.