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[casi] !OT Durbin says White House attacks critics

!Off Topic: US politics
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 11:05:54 EDT
Subject: [NIPGtalk] Durbin sees a [White House] campaign against him -
Chicago Tribune 7/23/03


Durbin sees a campaign against him
Senator denounces White House leaks
By Mike Dorning
Washington Bureau

July 23, 2003

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin on Tuesday accused the White House
trying to oust him from the Intelligence Committee and waging a campaign
intimidation against critics of the Bush administration's policies in

In a lengthy and unusually pointed speech on the Senate floor, Durbin
(D-Ill.) described a "continuing pattern" of news leaks attributed to
Bush administration officials that he said were intended to squelch
criticism of their
conduct on Iraq.

"If any member of this Senate . . . questions this White House policy,
raises any questions about the gathering of intelligence information or
the use of it, be prepared for the worst," said Durbin, a Democrat. "The
White House is
going to turn to you and attack you. They are going to question your

The senator's 45-minute denunciation comes as President Bush is under
fire for a claim in his State of the Union address that Iraq had sought
to obtain uranium from Africa. On Tuesday, the White House acknowledged
that the CIA had sent two memos months before the speech warning that the
information was not credible.

Voted against the war

Durbin, who voted against the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq, has
been one of the Senate's most vocal critics of the White House's handling
of intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He is demanding a
Senate investigation and last week made public the testimony from a CIA
official that a White House aide had pressed the agency to allow a claim
to be in Bush's
speech that British intelligence had "learned" about Iraq's quest for
African uranium.

Bush press secretary Scott McClellan characterized as "absolute nonsense"
Durbin's charge the White House is promoting stories that the senator is
unfit for the intelligence panel or otherwise seeking to discredit
critics with news leaks.

"That is not the way the White House operates. That is not the way the
White House press office operates. That is not my style," McClellan

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota expressed support
for Durbin's continued tenure on the intelligence oversight panel.

"He has been one of the most vigorous and most capable members of the
Intelligence Committee. I support his efforts," Daschle said. "I think
any efforts to
intimidate him or to in some way undermine his determination to get to
the facts is just wrong."

Durbin accused the White House of spreading allegations--which the
senator denied--that he disclosed classified information and should be
ousted from the

Durbin said that on Friday that reporters began calling his office saying
that an anonymous White House official had informed them that Durbin had
disclosed classified information and, as a result, Republican senators
 trying to remove him from the intelligence panel.

According to Durbin, the reporters said their White House source told
them he had disclosed the name of the national security aide who was
involved in the preparation of the speech. Durbin denied disclosing the
name, although
several news reports last week identified the staffer as Robert G.
Joseph, a senior adviser on  counter-proliferation issues.

Also, according to Durbin, the reporters said they were told he included
classified information in a Senate speech last week criticizing the
administration's use of intelligence in making the case for war with
In the speech, he said U.S. intelligence had identified 550 sites it
suspected may have been used for weapons of mass destruction.

But Durbin said the information had been declassified in June. His office
produced copies of month-old public statements from the UN and from
another senator that included the figure.

Durbin press secretary Joe Shoemaker said two reporters for major
newsmagazines and one from a newspaper phoned with similar information.

McClellan denied the White House was spreading the story. "Everything we
have said, we have said publicly," he said.

Durbin also suggested the White House may have sought "political revenge"
on the author of an intelligence report questioning claims that Iraq
sought to buy nuclear material from the African nation of Niger. He cited
a Bob Novak column and TIME magazine article based on information
attributed to administration officials that disclosed that the author,
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, is
married to a CIA operative.

Suspected retaliation

The information was disclosed after Wilson wrote an opinion piece in The
New York Times disputing administration claims that Iraq tried to
purchase the
uranium. Although Wilson has declined to say whether his wife works for
the CIA, he said officials in the administration are seeking to retaliate
against him
through the revelation. If true, he has said, the disclosure would
compromise her career and operations she may have been working on.

Asking for a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of that
disclosure, Durbin said, "It may be criminal, and that, quite frankly, is
as serious as it gets in this town."

Shoemaker said Durbin's concern also was driven by a report on the
personal life of ABC News correspondent Jeffrey Kofman that surfaced
after Kofman aired a piece describing low troop morale in Iraq.

Soon afterward, the Internet's Drudge Report published a banner headline:
"ABC News correspondent who filed troop complaints story is openly gay,
Canadian." The site included a link to a profile of Kofman in the gay
magazine The Advocate.

Site publisher Matt Drudge later told The Washington Post that "someone
in the White House communications shop tipped me" to the ABC
correspondent's piece and the Advocate profile.

McClellan said in press briefings this week that he does not believe the
White House was the source for any of the stories.

Copyright =A9 2003,
<A HREF=3D"">Chicago Trib

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