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In Search of the Leaker: U.S. Senate Authorizes Independent Counsel to Investigate the Source of Leaks of Confidential Information to the Media

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In Search of the Leaker: U.S. Senate Authorizes Independent Counsel to Investigate the Source of Leaks of Confidential Information to the Media

Article excerpt

In search of the leaker

U.S. Senate authorizes independent counsel to investigate the source of leaks of confidential information to the media

In a town where leaks are a common as press releases, the U.S. Senate has agreed to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the source of leaks in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and the Keating Five investigation.

After more than a week of sporadic debate and closed-door meetings, the Senate voted 86-12 for the measure introduced by Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine), which gives an independent counsel 120 days to complete a report.

The investigation will seek to uncover who leaked the allegations of

] sexual harassment by Thomas made in a confidential statement by Oklahoma University law professor Anita Hill to the Judiciary Committee, as well as to determine the source of leaks from the Senate Ethics Committee investigation of alleged senatorial involvement with former savings and loan executive Charles H. Keating Jr., who is currently under indictment.

A similar proposal, brought up by Sen. John Seymour (R- Calif.) would have placed the investigation in the hands of the FBI and limited its scope to a 30-day investigation in the Thomas case. That proposal was defeated 55-43.

Earlier on the day of the vote, Oct. 24, President Bush called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the source of information to the media in which Hill alleged she had been sexually harassed by newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Thomas when Hill had worked for Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"Frankly," the president said, "the American people just will not understand

it if the Senate fails to bring the leaker or leakers to justice."

The allegations first appeared in a Newsday article Oct. 6 and then were broadcast on National Public Radio later that day.

The allegatiions led to the reopening of the Thomas confirmation hearings and four days of unprecendented Senate Judiciary Committee hearings (E&P, Oct. 19, P. 12).

In his speech prior to the Senate vote regarding the investigation, President Bush said, "Congress should establish a mechanism for investigating congressional leaks thoroughly, professionally [and] promplty. And I've met this week with several leaders from the Senate from both parties, and they agree that we must prevent future leaks and establish a suitable mechanism for investigating them swiftly, bringing culprits to justice.

"There is no excuse for leaks that wreck lives and needlessly destroy reputations," President Bush continued. "The law already prohibits such leaks from the executive branch and, again, we intend to enforce that law rigorously.

"I know it's not easy. I've been there. I saw it when I was director of Central Intelligence when we dealt with national security. I've seen frustrating leaks in the White House that have nothing to do with character assassination or national security, that simply relate to policy matters.

"I know it's not a simple matter here," the president contiunued, "but we've got to do better, both the executive and the legislative branch."

In addition, the president said, to ensure confidentiality of information, he has "ordered that the FBI reports be carried directly to committee chairmen and any members designated by the chairmen. The members will read the reports immediately, in the presence of the agent, and then return them. …

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