Friday, June 30, 2006

House condemns intelligence leaks

House condemns intelligence leaks
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday condemned public disclosure of secret surveillance programs as Republicans stepped up their criticism of news media that published details of a bank-monitoring program last week.

By a largely party-line vote of 227 to 183, the House passed a nonbinding resolution condemning the disclosure of classified information and declaring that the House "expects the cooperation of all news media ... by not disclosing classified intelligence programs."

Lawmakers said a secret Treasury Department program that monitors bank transactions with the aim of tracking down terror groups had been compromised by news reports in the New York Times and other newspapers.

Ohio Republican Rep. Michael Oxley, the resolution's sponsor, echoed complaints from President George W. Bush and others who said such disclosures helped terrorists hide their activities more effectively.

"What's the average terrorist going to think? He's going to find a different way to move his money around," Oxley said.

Democrats prepared a similar resolution but the Republican majority did not allow it to come up for a vote. Republicans should not blame newspapers for holding the Bush administration accountable when they themselves had failed to do so, Democrats said.

"This is a clear, bald-faced attempt to strangle criticism of this administration," said Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell.

Democrats also argued that Republicans have not been interested in investigating leaks that advanced the Bush administration's agenda, such as the disclosure of a CIA official Valerie Plame's identity after her husband criticized the administration's use of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the Senate, Texas Republican John Cornyn introduced a similar resolution, but the chairman of the Judiciary Committee declined to endorse it.

"I think there would have to be a clear-cut showing of prejudice and damage before I would favor any resolution to inhibit media coverage," Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter told reporters.

In a separate effort, Arizona Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth has gathered 70 signatures on a letter calling for Times reporters' media credentials to be revoked.