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Democrat to defend GOP's Shelby in leak probe

WASHINGTON -- A Washington attorney who represented President Clinton at his impeachment trial and has a long association with Democrats will defend Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, against ethics charges that he leaked classified information to the media.

Gregory Craig, a partner at Williams & Connolly, will represent Shelby in an expected investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, Craig's office confirmed yesterday. Craig and Shelby's spokeswoman, Virginia Davis, both declined to comment on the case.

At issue are two messages intercepted by the National Security Agency on the eve of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Those messages contained the words "the match begins tomorrow" and "tomorrow is zero day," but they were not translated from Arabic until Sept. 12.

The Justice Department has investigated whether Shelby leaked the classified information to news organizations in 2002.

Last month, the department referred the matter to the ethics committee, signaling criminal charges are unlikely. Shelby, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who was vice chairman at the time of the leak, has said he has never "knowingly compromised classified information."

Craig represented the father of Elian Gonzalez in his highly publicized custody battle with the boy's relatives in Miami.

His numerous high-profile criminal cases included representing President Reagan's attempted assassin, John Hinckley, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, when Kennedy was a witness in the rape trial of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith.

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