Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has placed one of his staff members on paid administrative leave as the result of an investigation involving the possible theft of memos from the systems of two Democratic senators.
"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," Hatch said in a statement released Tuesday.
According to Hatch's statement, the investigation began Nov. 16, after Hatch consulted with the Senate sergeant-at-arms as well as Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. That action followed assertions from Kennedy and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that memos were lifted from their servers and had been leaked to the media. The memos allegedly involve Democratic strategy to thwart the confirmation of several of President Bush's judicial nominees.
Hatch's statement says that by Nov. 21, steps taken to preserve all potential data regarding the alleged hack had been completed and that two federal prosecutors have, so far, interviewed about 50 people regarding the incident.
Also, an outside company will conduct a forensic examination to determine if there was any unauthorized access to 14 documents. Hatch wrote that he hopes the forensic examination will determine who had access to the files of both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Our further purpose is to make sure we design a more secure system for the committee," he said.
While the investigation is almost complete, Hatch said the interviews conducted by federal prosecutors have revealed that "some of the committee files, as Sens. Durbin, Leahy, and Kennedy feared, were compromised--and worse, by a member of the Judiciary Committee majority staff. In addition, preliminary interviews suggest that a former majority committee staff member may also have been involved."