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Leak of CIA data angers officials Sen. Hatch denies revealing secrets

By John Diamond and Jill Zuckman
Washington Bureau

Published September 14, 2001 WASHINGTON -- A senior senator's disclosure of
highly classified information about the U.S. terrorism investigation has
infuriated Bush administration officials and led to a clampdown on how much
the White House will share with lawmakers.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary
Committee, told reporters hours after terrorists crashed hijacked jetliners
into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that U.S. intelligence had
intercepted a telephone call from a suspect reporting to his handler that
the targets in New York City and near Washington had been hit.

"They have an intercept of some information that includes people associated
with [Osama] bin Laden who acknowledged a couple of targets were hit,"
Hatch told The Associated Press. He made similar comments to ABC News and
said the information had come from officials at the CIA and FBI.

Electronic intercepts represent some of the most sensitive intelligence
possessed by the government. U.S. officials rarely discuss their content
because to do so would reveal to adversaries, including foreign
governments, that American intelligence had penetrated their sensitive

Hatch's disclosure, with the possibility it would tip off terrorists that
their communications had been compromised, left senior officials of the
administration dumbfounded and angry.

"Well, that helps a lot!" exclaimed one official, who added an expletive
for emphasis, after learning of Hatch's comments.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, without mentioning Hatch's name, said
Wednesday that such public statements risk undermining the investigation
into Tuesday's attacks by terrorists.

"It's important to underline that, when people deal with intelligence
information and make it available to people who are not cleared for that
classified information, the effect is to reduce the chances that the United
States government has to track down and deal with the people who have
perpetrated the attacks on the United States and killed so many Americans,"
Rumsfeld told reporters.

He described "people who ought to know better" who would disclose such
information as being "willing to violate federal criminal statutes and
willing to frustrate our efforts to track down and deal with terrorists."

A Pentagon official said Rumsfeld was concerned by Hatch's comments as well
as others.

In an interview with the Tribune, Hatch testily denied he had disclosed any
classified information.

"I have been here 25 years and I have never violated a classified matter,
and I never will," Hatch said. He said no one with the Bush administration
had contacted him about his comments about the telephone intercept.

Hatch has not been the only lawmaker to emerge from classified briefings
this week and discuss sensitive information.

One side effect of such leaks, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has been
that the administration's briefings in Room 407 of the Capitol, a secure
facility, have become gradually less informative.

Amid all of the leaking, McCain said, "I can understand then why we go to
these meetings in 407 and I receive much less information than I do from
turning on the television set."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called the briefings "a colossal waste of time."

Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune

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