Word out of the Senate is that some Republicans are looking to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, to open a full investigation into the leak by CIA staffers of so-called “black sites” overseas. These facilities house captured al Qaeda and other terrorists, and are maintained by the CIA.
The Washington Post reported on the sites, using information gathered from sources inside the CIA, both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and the group, Human Rights Watch, which, according to an HRW source, has been getting inside information from Democratic staff on both House and Senate Committees.
Although Post withheld the locations of specific “black sites,” the London Times quickly followed up. Citing the human rights group as a source, it identified not only the nations where they might be located — both of which are staunch allies in America’s War on Terrorism — but also the flight plans used by the CIA to transport the prisoners.
“This leak not only put CIA operatives at risk by identifying the locations, including ones that are supposedly no longer being used, it put our national security at risk here at home and put civilian lives in the countries that are helping us at risk. Weigh this leak against the one Democrats are all hopped up about and there is no comparison,” says a Republican staffer for a Senator considering making a formal request for the investigation.
The “black site” revelations once again also put a focus on CIA employees detailed to both the personal staffs of U.S Senators, but also the Intelligence Committees. Some Republicans believe these detailees might have been sources for the information obtained by the Post and Human Rights Watch.
“This is a very serious matter,” says another Senate leadership aide. “Democrats should be looking to join us in this investigation, but they won’t because they know where it will end: their side of the aisle.”
HOLT YOUR HORSES
Some Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are wondering what it is Democratic member Rep. Rush Holt (NJ) thinks he’s doing by so publicly discussing issues related to the Joe Wilson scandal. Particularly since Holt, like other Democrats, has been receiving information that little to no damage appears to have occurred as the result of Wilson’s wife’s name having become more publicly known. Holt has appeared on a number of TV shows, including an embarrassing 60 Minutes advertorial for Wilson.
Holt has claimed that he knows almost certainly that damage was done to intelligence resources as a result of Valerie Plame‘s name being further disseminated. But the CIA has briefed both the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees that thus far that does not appear to the case at all.
Of course, that information would be confidential, and Holt shouldn’t discuss it.
“The fact is Holt shouldn’t be talking at all to anyone, especially the press,” says a Republican House colleague. “More important, if he is going to talk, he ought to be honest, and what he is telling the media right now is not accurate. It’s what they want to hear, but it’s not accurate or complete.”
The schedule to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito, now set for early next year, is expected to help Republicans on several fronts, not the least of which is to put Democratic Senators in a very difficult position on the Constitutional Option debate.
Alito is performing so well in private meetings, and his preparations for the Judiciary Committee hearings are expected to go smoothly, thus ensuring an easier process of getting him to both a vote in the committee and the full Senate.
“The longer the American public sees Judge Alito and hears about his record and his performance up here, the harder it will be for Democrats to oppose him,” says a Republican Judiciary Committee staffer.
And that puts the Democratic leadership in a very tight bind. According to the staffers working with the Democratic leadership, their strategy was that if the process was pushed back to late November and December, Democrats were prepared to filibuster, banking that other events would converge to help them.
“Iraq, the economy, oil prices and other domestic issues might just sour the American public enough that they wouldn’t mind seeing Democrats standing up the President’s most visible policy decision in the past few months,” says a leadership staffer. “But now, that’s been taken away from us. Alito is doing great, we got our timeline, and now we’re not feeling so secure about where we might be a few months from now.”
IN THE WINGS
There is little support for current Treasury Secretary John Snow to be pushed out of office among Treasury and White House economic policy staff. But if Snow does decide to leave, look for current Deputy Treasury Secretary Bob Kimmett to top the list of possible replacements.