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Revelations of 9-11 Intelligence Leaks Embarrass Congressional Committee

The chairmen of a joint congressional committee probing the September 11 attacks on the United States have asked the Justice Department to investigate possible leaks of classified information by the panel.

The chairmen of the joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee are clearly troubled and embarrassed by the apparent leaks.

At issue is the disclosure that the National Security Agency intercepted two Arabic-language messages on the eve of the September 11 attacks.

News reports say the messages read 'tomorrow is the zero hour' and 'the match is about to begin,' but they were not translated until after the attacks.

The disclosure is believed to have been leaked from classified testimony before the joint congressional panel, which is investigating intelligence failures prior to September 11.

Vice President Cheney called the committee chairmen earlier Thursday to express his concern.

"The vice president was not a happy man," said Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida, who is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "He emphasized the fact that the administration was attempting to be cooperative with our investigation, providing us with a very large amount of material, that the understanding was that it would be handled with discretion. I told him we appreciated the cooperation we had received, that it has been improving as this process moves forward, and that we understood our responsibilities, and shared his deep distress and concern whenever those responsibilities were not met."

"We are entrusted to keep these secrets," said Porter Goss, a Republican from Florida and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "So any time I hear or read from the vice president or anybody else that there is a leak of classified information that is attributed to the United States Congress, or came from our committee in a session that was a closed session, it is a matter of concern."

President Bush has long been concerned about possible leaks from congressional briefings and probes of the September 11 attacks.

Just weeks after the attacks, he directed that classified briefings to Congress be limited to top leaders of the House and Senate and their intelligence panels. He dropped the restrictions after getting assurances from Mr. Graham and Mr. Goss that their committee members would protect sensitive information.