- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Senate Republicans have thrown their support behind the investigation into how internal memos written by Democratic staffers on the Judiciary Committee wound up in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.Since the memos surfaced — revealing how Democrats planned with liberal interest groups to block President Bush’s judicial nominees — Democrats have accused Republican staffers of hacking into their computers, downloading the 14 memos and leaking them to reporters.Republicans had said there was no proof that the memos were downloaded and suggested they might have been left somewhere by a careless Democratic staffer. But in a private meeting yesterday of Republican Judiciary Committee members, senators were told that security barriers protecting Democrats’ Judiciary Committee computer network had, in fact, been left open to cross-party snooping as recently as April.”It was a problem that left Republican documents vulnerable as well,” said one Republican staffer who did not attend the meeting but was aware of the computer malfunction. “Any twentysomething could figure it out.”Democrats said two of the leaked memos had never been printed.In one of those memos, a staffer to Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, had typed wide-ranging notes to himself calling Mr. Bush’s nominees “Nazis.” The second document was an unused draft of talking points Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, had planned to use during a Democratic caucus meeting.Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle has begun a full investigation. During the weekend, Mr. Pickle had the Judiciary Committee’s computer server and backup tapes seized.”It’s a major case of theft,” Mr. Durbin said. “It’s no different than if someone had broken into my Senate office, gotten into my filing cabinets and stolen the memos that way.”Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee share the same computer server, which stores information for anyone who logs onto the network. Access to the files for various offices is limited and access across party lines is supposed to be strictly prohibited.Republicans blamed the security problem on a glitch dating to May 2001, when Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party to become an independent, giving Democrats control over the Senate and Judiciary Committee. When that happened, control over the Judiciary Committee servers also switched hands and new computer technicians — unfamiliar with the system — were hired. The problem was discovered and fixed in April, Republicans said.Before the closed-door meeting yesterday, several Republicans were furious with their leadership and Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, for entertaining any notion of investigating how the documents were leaked.In a Friday letter to Mr. Pickle, several Republican members of the Judiciary Committee voiced opposition to the investigation and demanded that the inquiry be limited.Mr. Hatch said yesterday he is in a tight spot between outraged Republicans and angry Democrats. “I’m going to do whatever is right.”Like many other Republicans, Mr. Hatch vowed not to let the investigation interfere with broadcasting the substance of the memos. In particular, Republicans were shocked to read a plan outlined by a Kennedy staffer to stall a Bush nominee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals until after that panel had decided the University of Michigan affirmative action case.”Anytime someone feels like confidentiality has been violated, that has to be dealt with. I want their concerns satisfied,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a Judiciary Committee member. “That said, I will also be their worst nightmare when it comes to what these memos said. I will make sure the substance of the memos is pointed out over and over and over.”

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