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Senate completes probe of memo leaks

WASHINGTON -- Senate investigators yesterday wrapped up their review of how Democrats' computer memos on judicial nominees got into the hands of Republicans.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the top Democrat had a private briefing with the Senate's sergeant-at-arms and his investigators, who have worked on the case since November.

A committee meeting today to go over the report was closed to the media or the public. The committee's leaders, Senators Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, planned an afternoon news conference.

"We know this investigation took a great deal of skill, sensitivity, and commitment," the senators said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear if the review eventually would be released to the public.

Hatch began the investigation after Senators Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, protested what they said was the theft of the memos from their computer servers.

The memos, concerning political strategy on blocking confirmation of several of President Bush's judicial nominees, were obtained by The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.

Conservatives have cited the memos as proof the Democrats colluded with outside liberal groups in their choices of which appeals courts nominees to block. At least one ethics complaint has been filed against Durbin based on the leaked information.

Senators said last month that preliminary information from Senate investigators showed that the computer intrusion went on for at least two years starting in 2001, and that thousands of documents were downloaded.

Only a few Senate Republican staffers were involved, committee members said. Democrats still want to know if the White House, the Justice Department, or any judicial nominee from that time period used the information to anticipate Democratic questions and attacks.

Also, some senators have suggested that Republican files might also have been snooped into.

Two Senate employees have left because of the investigation -- an aide to Hatch, whose identity has not been disclosed, and Manuel Miranda, who worked for Hatch and then for Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee.

Miranda said he read the Democratic memos but has denied breaking into the computers. He has said he did nothing wrong or illegal. But Democrats, as well as Hatch and several other Republican senators, have criticized him for reading the documents.

In a statement this week, Miranda urged the committee to make the report public

, saying, "For too long both Democrats and Republicans have abused their control over information. This must now stop."

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