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Tensions Flare in US Senate Over Iraq War Intelligence Scandal

Opposition Democratic lawmakers forced the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, demanding further investigation of intelligence used by the Bush administration prior to the war with Iraq and into the leak of a CIA officer's name.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid invoked the rarely used Senate rule number 21 to close the upper house of the U.S. legislature to the public and the media for about two hours. He said it was the indictment of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter” Libby, that showed a pattern of misinformation by the White House, which silenced anyone who challenged its evidence for going to war against Iraq.

Minority Leader Reid said Senate investigations into the matter have been moving too slowly. "I demand, on behalf of the American people, that we understand why these investigations are not being conducted and in accordance with rule 21, I now move the Senate go into closed session."

Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist reacted angrily to the Democrats' surprise move -- calling it a stunt.

"They have no conviction, they have no principles, they have no ideas."

Senator Reid was asked by reporters why he had not consulted with Majority Leader Frist.

"Consult with the Leader so he stops me from going and moving on this? What do you mean ‘consult with him’? What are you talking about?" replied the senator.

The Democrats' protest, which lasted about two hours, came after Mr. Libby was indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in the investigation of how the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame was leaked to the media.

The officer's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, has accused the Bush administration of revealing his wife's identity in retaliation for his questioning the rationale for the war with Iraq.