— From NBC's Mike Viqueira
A bitter fight has erupted between Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. The short story: The GOP chairman, Pete Hoekstra, has suspended the security clearance of a Democratic staffer and commenced a probe into allegations that the staffer leaked that now-famous National Intelligence Estimate that asserts Iraq had become a "cause celebre" for terrorists. At issue is the timing of the leak. Republicans say the staffer in question asked for a copy of the secret document three days before it showed up in the New York Times.
Democrats are beside themselves with anger. They say that, first, "hundreds" of staffers and members had access to the NIE since last May. Second, they say, this is clearly retaliation on Hoekstra's part for the Democrats' release earlier this week of a committee report alleging that disgraced Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) directed some $70 to $80 million in intelligence contracts to his cronies in return for things of value. A Republican source on the committee says that is nonsense, and that this is simply a national security concern over an illegally leaked document. "The timing is what it is," the source says. "It merits some kind of review."
Democrats say that the staffer in question, whose name was outed on another network but is not being printed here, has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. "The only thing wrong with him is that he works for [ranking member] Jane Harman," a top Democrat source says. "It's fundamentally unfair."