The Associated Press and The New York Times both reported that Republicans were outraged over a recent reference by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to a confidential FBI background check on Bush judicial nominee Henry Saad. But the AP and the Times failed to note that the existence of the FBI report has been public since June 2004, when Republican staffers inadvertently broadcast a discussion of the report over the Internet during a closed-door Judiciary Committee session.
The weblog Daily Kos first noted the GOP smear of Reid and highlighted the fact that the FBI report's existence had already been publicly disclosed.
Warning that Democrats would likely continue to filibuster Saad's nomination, Reid told the Senate: “All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI and I think you would all agree that there's a problem there” [AP, 5/13/05].
The New York Times reported on May 13 that Republicans and conservatives were “fuming” over Reid's mention of the report:
After the floor debate, Republicans and conservative activists were fuming over Mr. Reid's reference on the floor to the confidential F.B.I. background report on Henry W. Saad, a fourth judicial candidate from Michigan, saying his mentioning it was highly inappropriate.
On the same day, the AP reported that Reid “was criticized by conservatives for mentioning” the report. The AP quoted Jeffrey Mazzella, president of the Center for Individual Freedom: “With his unsubstantiated charges, Senator Reid unfairly and irresponsibly defames Judge Saad.”
The Washington Times also wrote about the Republican “outrage” at Reid's reference to the FBI report, but unlike the other papers, The Washington Times quoted a Reid spokesman noting that this was not the first public mention of the report. From the May 13 Washington Times article by Charles Hurt:
Reid spokesman Jim Manley referred to an incident in June when the Senate Judiciary Committee met behind closed doors to review Judge Saad's file and inadvertently left a microphone turned on that broadcast part of the secret hearing onto the Internet. “The fact that there's an issue regarding Henry Saad's background is well-known,” said Mr. Manley, who noted that Mr. Reid did not disclose any specifics from the file. “It's been discussed both in committee and on the floor before.”
In a June 4, 2004, Washington Times article, Hurt reported that “Republican staffers” were apparently responsible for making the existence of the FBI report public:
Though several Republicans noted privately that the routine check had been completed more than six months ago and that no questions had arisen, Mr. Hatch acquiesced and removed the public and reporters to hold a meeting. ... Although the closed-door meeting succeeded in delaying Judge Saad's nomination one more week, it failed to remain secret. The hearing was broadcast over the Internet because of apparent inadvertence on the part of Republican staffers.