The Democrat-controlled House Intelligence Committee has rejected an effort to turn over classified information for a requested ethics probe of whether Speaker Jim Wright improperly disclosed a secret CIA operation in Nicaragua, sources said.
Wednesday's action, on a party-line vote during a closed-door session, had been mapped out a day earlier in a private meeting of committee Democrats, who hold an 11-6 majority on the panel.Majority members argued that they were under no obligation to provide classified data relevant to Wright's disclosure, in part because the House ethics committee, which investigates breaches of confidentiality, had not formally asked for the material, said sources who spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Chairman Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, pointedly reminded committee members as the meeting broke up that the rules prohibit members from discussing anything done in secret session. The reminder angered some Republican members, who complained that they apparently were being put under stricter rules than the speaker and vowed not to let the matter drop.
"It's extremely ironic that we're so concerned about the committee procedures . . . when there's something before Congress on keeping the secrets of the nation," said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif.
Wright, D-Texas, told reporters last week that he had "clear testimony" from the CIA that U.S. agents had sought to provoke demonstrations and civil unrest that would lead to harsh crackdowns by the leftist Sandinista government. The aim, Wright contended, was to sabotage faltering peace talks between the government and the Contra rebels.