- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

The House yesterday passed a measure that condemns officials who leak national-security secrets and says Congress expects the press to cooperate by not printing leaked information.

The symbolic measure, which passed 227-183, was inspired by a June 23 New York Times report detailing a CIA terrorist-tracking program that studies banking records. Seventeen Democrats joined 210 Republicans in support of the resolution, while eight Republicans, 174 Democrats and the chambers one independent voted against it.

“We are at war,” said Rep. Michael G. Oxley, Ohio Republican and the resolution’s sponsor. The New York Times “cut the legs out from under this program,” he said. “Now the terrorists will be driven further underground.”

Democrats offered a substitute measure that deleted assertions made in the Republican-crafted original that the program is legal, has been overseen by Congress and is respectful of civil liberties.

Much of the seven-page Republican version is “unsupported by any fact-finding or oversight,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who authored the Democratic version, called the Republican resolution a “Bush commercial.”

Mr. Frank’s substitute, which was denied a vote, kept an affirmation that Congress supports legal programs to find terrorists and says it is important to keep “legitimate” intelligence programs secret.

“Everybody in this body supports tracking terrorists,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Republicans adopted a refrain accusing the New York Times of an anti-Bush grudge and a liberal bias and did not mention that the information was also published in the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. The Boston Globe this week reported that details of the program have been widely publicized for several years.

“This clearly hampers our nation’s ability to conduct the war on terror,” said Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama.

“No doubt about it,” that al Qaeda knows about the financial tracking program now, he said. “How did they know? Because they put it on the front page of the newspaper.”

However, Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan countered: “This is an attempt to silence the press.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the resolution, saying Congress instead should focus on protecting privacy rights.

“Without the full facts, the House is seeking to condone a controversial Bush program,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s legislative office.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn yesterday introduced a resolution urging the Justice Department to “vigorously and tirelessly” investigate and prosecute officials who leak information on counterterrorism activities.

“We need to express our collective outrage,” the Texas Republican said. “These disclosures have endangered us all.”

Mr. Cornyn’s measure, which will be considered after next week’s Independence Day break, condemns the “damaging leaks and subsequent publication” of the financial tracking program and the Bush administration’s domestic spying program. That surveillance program was first disclosed in the New York Times last fall.

He and several other Republicans also called for Judiciary Committee hearings to explore legislation to curb leaks.

Charles Hurt contributed to this report.

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