updated 3/4/2004 6:42:45 PM ET 2004-03-04T23:42:45

Two former Senate staffers were chiefly to blame for Democratic computer memos about judicial nominees ending up in Republican hands, but the computer files were not adequately protected, either, according to a Senate report described to The Associated Press.

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The report, which was to be released Thursday evening with parts deleted or blacked out, indicates that Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle and his investigators found that 4,670 documents were taken from a shared Judiciary Committee server, a source familiar with the investigation said.

No names show up in the 60-plus-page report being released to the public, two people said on condition of anonymity.

But the report paints a picture of two Republican aides’ going through the computer server, reading and sending out the Democratic memos, they said. The report also indicates that security was very lax on the computer, which was  accessible to both Republicans and Democrats.

Closed meeting on report
Judiciary Committee members held closed meetings throughout Thursday to discuss what should be done about the computer snooping, but no consensus was reached.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the investigation was incomplete. “It is my view and the view of a few others that the only way to get to the bottom of this is a special counsel with full investigative powers,” he said.

“If there were people in the executive branch, if there were people in outside groups involved, Pickle had no way to go talk to them,” he added.

Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the panel’s ranking Democrat, decided to give out the report with key information deleted.

Committee leaders “want to give out as much information as possible, but we don’t want to hamstring a possible prosecution,” Leahy said.

Earlier, Hatch had said: “Whether any criminal laws were broken, the improper access was wrong and unjustifiable.” He blamed “two misguided former Senate staffers” for the computer intrusion.

In addition to the thousands of documents that Democrats say were accessed, Hatch said more than 100 of his computer files were also “improperly accessed and transmitted outside the Senate.”

Bush nominees on hold
Senate Democrats have been holding up Bush’s new judicial nominees since the revelation of the computer snooping. Only two judicial nominees have been approved so far this year, Hatch said.

Hatch started the investigation after Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., protested what they said was the theft of the memos from their computer servers.

The memos, concerning political strategy on blocking confirmation of several of Bush’s judicial nominations, were obtained and reported by The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.

Conservatives have talked up the memos as proof that the Democrats colluded with outside liberal groups in their choices of which Bush appellate nominees to block, and at least one ethics complaint has been filed against Durbin and Kennedy based on the leaked information.

“Regardless of how these memos were obtained or what Sergeant Pickle’s report reveals, the corruption and manipulation of the judicial confirmation process highlighted in the memos must not be lost,” said Jeffrey Mazzella, executive director of the Center for Individual Freedom, a conservative activist group.

Working with Secret Service agents and computer technicians from General Dynamics Corp., investigators have conducted more than 100 interviews and have seized several computers.

Last month, senators said preliminary information from Pickle’s investigators showed that the computer intrusion went on for at least two years starting in 2001 and that thousands of documents were downloaded.

The two Senate employees — an unnamed Hatch staffer and Manuel Miranda, who worked for Hatch and later for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. — left because of the investigation.

Miranda said he read the Democratic memos, but he denied breaking into the Democratic computers and said he did nothing illegal. Democrats, Hatch and several other Republican senators have criticized him for reading the confidential documents.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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