Caught red-handed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has placed one of his committee staffers on administrative leave for what the media reports are agreeing to call
, with some delicacy, "improperly obtaining data from the secure computer networks of two Democratic senators."
(Reminds me of my pals who used to get kicks by improperly obtaining Snickers bars from the local drug store when we were in grade school
Keep in mind, Democratic Senators raised questions about how an unsent memo from the Democratic staff
on the Intel Committee ended up in the hands of radio chatmeister Sean Hannity three weeks ago.
Now that it seems the Judiciary Committee memo was in fact stolen, the Democrats' demands that the other incident be investigated sounds a lot more compelling. Was that one 'improperly obtained' too?
Following is a selection of Hatch's press conference late Tuesday ...
Because of the serious nature of the concerns raised, I also initiated a preliminary inquiry to determine whether anyone on the majority full committee staff had information pertaining to this matter. That inquiry is almost completed.
At my direction, two experienced federal prosecutors assigned to the committee conducted interviews of approximately 50 persons. I emphasized to them that their inquiry was to be full and impartial, letting the chips fall where they may, and that all information would be turned over to the sergeant at arms.
It is with deep regret that I must report today that the interviews conducted to date have revealed that at least one current member of Judiciary Committee majority staff had improperly accessed some of the documents referenced in the media reports and which have been posted on the Internet.
While this individual denies responsibility for releasing the documents to the press, it is now clear that some of the committee files, as Senators Durbin, Leahy and Kennedy feared, were compromised, and worse, by a member of the Senate Judiciary majority staff.
In addition, preliminary interviews suggest that a former majority committee staff member may also have been involved. I was shocked to learn this may have occurred. I am mortified that this improper, unethical and simply unacceptable breach of confidential files may have occurred on my watch.
Each senator has an expectation of receiving confidential, candid advice from his or her staff members. There is no excuse that can justify these improper actions.
I have placed one individual on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of the full investigation being conducted by the Senate Sergeant at Arms William Pickle.
It is my understanding that this individual is cooperating and providing information to the investigators.
HATCH: I continue to urge each and every member of the Judiciary Committee, majority staff, to provide whatever information that will prove helpful in getting to the truth of this matter.
Once this individual provided the information to the staff conducting the inquiry, I contacted the Senate sergeant at arms and Capitol Police in order to take immediate steps to seize that person's computer and safeguard any retrievable data.
The sergeant at arms has been kept informed of each step we've taken. And we will continue to give whatever information we obtain immediately to Mr. Pickle and his investigators.
To summarize, the data have been preserved. An independent forensic investigation is under way. One individual has expressed knowledge which indicates the security of the committee's computer system was compromised. That individual has been placed on an administrative leave with pay.
The sergeant at arms investigation is under way, and we will continue to cooperate with that investigation in every way. And everybody on my staff has been directed to do so.
I will be conferring with Senator Leahy -- I tried to call him before coming over here, but was unable to connect.
But I will be conferring with Senator Leahy to take all appropriate measures to ensure the committee's computer system is secure and that its integrity, including development of training materials for all staff consistent with Senate rules and ethical standards, will be maintained.
In closing, I am making available today copies of relevant correspondence.
I will take a few questions, but as you can understand, due to the nature of this matter, I will not be able to comment on many further details. I think I've commented on all that really I can.
So I'll take a few questions if you have any.
QUESTION: Have any charges been made? Or is there any charges filed against this individual?
HATCH: Well, accusations have been made, but no charges have been filed against anybody, to my knowledge.
HATCH: I can't comment on that, because I don't know that a crime has been committed, nor do I know that there's any criminal law that has been breached.
But I do feel that the ethics of this body have been breached.
QUESTION: The person put on administrative leave and the former staff who may also have had knowledge of the incident, are they Republicans or Democrats?
HATCH: I honestly don't know, but they're working for majority staff, or they did -- the one is on administrative leave, the other was a former staffer on our side.
QUESTION: What are their names?
HATCH: That, we're not going to -- that's not my prerogative to give.
QUESTION: Generally speaking, can you explain how it was possible that they were able to gain access to those files? Did they have to do something that -- did they have to hack into the system or...
HATCH: I honestly don't know. And that's one of the questions that the sergeant at arms and the independent forensic experts will have to answer. I have some comments on that, made by the one person. But I think the best thing I can say is I honestly don't know the answer.
QUESTION: Current members, this year, of your staff?
HATCH: Yes. On current administrative leave with pay.
QUESTION: Are any other staffers of the United States Senate or Congress involved, as far as you can tell?
HATCH: Not that I know of at this point, but that's, again, something that the sergeant at arms is going to have to look at.
We've interviewed 50 staffers. And virtually all that I think should be interviewed, although there may be some others. So we're not quite complete with the inquiry that we're making.
QUESTION: Are you looking at just who got the information from Democrats, or are you also looking at who then dispersed it to the media?
HATCH: Well, we first want to find out if anybody on our staff had anything to do with this, and, like I say, I'm mortified to say that at least one member that I know of has compromised the computer system -- not the system, but has had access to these materials.
I really can't comment much beyond that, other than the sergeant at arms is going to have to follow up.
And I understand this staffer is cooperating with the sergeant at arms.
More to come, I'm sure ...