House Speaker Newt Gingrich is considering removing Rep. Robert Torricelli from the House Intelligence Committee for releasing classified information about CIA involvement in Guatemala, officials said Thursday.
Gingrich declined to comment. But both Torricelli and a congressional staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that Gingrich has told House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., that he is considering such a move.
Earlier this week, Gingrich, R-Ga., pushed Torricelli to resign from the committee, saying the New Jersey Democrat had violated his oath not to reveal classified information.
As speaker, Gingrich controls membership on the intelligence panel, a group that oversees the CIA and other U.S. intelligence operations and which meets in a sealed-off room on the fourth floor of the Capitol. Roll Call and The Congressional Monitor, two Capitol Hill publications, first reported in their Thursday edition that Gingrich was considering ousting Torricelli from the panel.
Torricelli said in an interview that he had no intention of resigning. He said the information he released about CIA knowledge of government-sponsored killings in Guatemala came to him through sources that were not classified.
“I went with the information to Gephardt,” said Torricelli, explaining he wanted to know if the Democratic leader thought pursuing it would conflict with his role on the intelligence committee.
“I said I thought it was so important to pursue the information, I would resign,” Torricelli said. “He (Gephardt) said it was not a conflict.”
Referring to Gingrich’s threat, Torricelli said, “He has to make his decision and the Democrats will make their decision.”
If Torricelli is removed, the Democrats would not name a successor to fill the seat and would boycott committee meetings on CIA involvement in Guatemala, Torricelli said.
“The CIA is objecting to my presence on the oversight committee,” Torricelli said. “I recognize it’s a measure of respect that they don’t want to face me, but you can’t have the CIA dictating membership on its oversight committee.”
The congressional staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described Gingrich’s concern as focusing on the ability of the CIA to develop clandestine sources. By revealing that Guatemalan Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez had been a CIA source, Torricelli was undercutting CIA efforts to assure its informers that their identity would be protected.