By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
A Democratic staff member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has had his security clearances reinstated and yesterday resumed work for the panel, ending a pre-election drama during which senior House Republicans alleged he may have leaked an intelligence report that was politically embarrassing to the Bush administration.
The mid-level staffer, Larry Hanauer, had signed an affidavit that he did not "discuss, disclose or cause to be discussed or disclosed" a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq to any person "affiliated with the press."
Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) wrote on Friday to ranking Democrat Jane Harman (Calif.) that the affidavit and the results of the committee staff director's interview of Hanauer were enough for him to rescind the punishment.
An earlier plan to carry on an investigation of all staff members to include possible review of their past e-mails was dropped. A spokesman for Hoekstra, Jamal Ware, said that the staff member's access to classified information had been "restored," but that otherwise the chairman would have no comment on the matter.
At the time of the suspension, Hoekstra told Harman that another committee member, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), had questioned the timing between Hanauer obtaining the NIE for a Democratic lawmaker who requested it and the New York Times publishing a story about it days later. Although the leak allegation was not based on any evidence, Hoekstra suspended Hanauer, telling Harman he had "come to the conclusion that I cannot assume that this was a mere coincidence."
Jonathan Turley, Hanauer's Washington attorney, yesterday released a statement welcoming the news that "this long nightmare for Larry and his family is now over." He added that it is "regrettable that it took this long given the total absence of any evidence linking Larry to the New York Times articles." In the interim, Hanauer worked in Harman's office handling non-classified duties, and he said he received threatening phone calls as a result of the publicity.
The situation highlighted long-standing animosity between Hoekstra and Harman. Harman objected to the chairman's release of several intelligence reports -- drafted primarily by the Republican staff -- that gave support to the Bush administration's policies dealing with terrorism, Iran and North Korea. In turn, Harman had released an internal report raising questions about how former committee member Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) had used his status to get Pentagon contracts for political supporters. Cunningham is serving an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted on bribery and other charges.
The antagonism between the two senior committee members seems not to have ended. Hoekstra, in his Friday letter, reminded Harman that his policy prohibits staff members from talking to the media "unless authorized by me," adding: "Even when such contacts do not deal with classified information."
He pointedly noted that he had been told "it has been the routine practice of the minority staff to have contacts with the press at your direction." Hoekstra added, referring to Hanauer: "I expect the staff member to comply scrupulously with my announced policy for the remainder of the 109th Congress."
Under normal circumstances, Harman would be in line to replace Hoekstra as chairman in January. But Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who under the rules appoints all members of the intelligence panel, has indicated that she plans to choose someone else, possibly the next ranking Democrat, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.).
One alternative, according to a senior Democratic staff member who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak for his boss, would be for Pelosi to give Harman the chairmanship of an intelligence panel subcommittee, rather than just dropping her from the committee.
As for Hoekstra, a Republican congressional staffer said whether the current chairman remains on the committee is up to Boehner, who under the rules chooses the panel's membership. "I believe Mr. Hoekstra would serve if Boehner selects him," the staff member said.