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Wright tells ethics panel he broke no rules

House Speaker Jim Wright formally denied to the ethics committee yesterday that he broke House rules by talking openly about a secret CIA operation aimed at undermining the Nicaraguan government. Representative Wright (D) of Texas, in a letter to the ethics chairman, Rep. Julian Dixon, said his Sept. 20 criticism of the CIA's purported secret efforts to provoke civil disturbances in Nicaragua was based on publicly available information.

But the letter left several unanswered questions for the panel, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, to examine in its informal probe of the allegations against Wright.

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Representative Dixon, (D) of California, called the investigation relatively simple, particularly compared to the committee's separate and complex probe into Wright's finances. ``It's not that complicated a matter,'' he said. ``There are two basic elements: what classified information the Speaker may have received, and ... what he said to the press.''

It is against House rules to publicly disclose classified information given to the Intelligence Committee.

On Tuesday, the committee voted unanimously to grant limited access to its files and personnel for the ethics probe - access that could enable investigators to determine whether Wright could have based his comments on material disclosed in classified intelligence briefings.

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