Top senator demands 'spygate' answers from NFL
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday February 1, 2008 |
Print This  Email This

There may not have been any waterboarding shown on secret video tapes that the NFL destroyed, but that's not stopping a prominent GOP senator from demanding answers from the league.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, says plenty of questions remain about revelations the New England Patriots spied on the New York Jets earlier this season, secretly videotaping defensive coaches' signals to players during a game. The NFL confiscated the videotape, fined the team and its coach $750,000 and denied a first-round draft pick to the Patriots, who will play Sunday in the Super Bowl after an undefeated regular season.

After investigating the incident, the NFL destroyed its confiscated tapes without disclosing what they showed or explaining its decision. Because the league enjoys substantial leeway from federal antitrust laws, Specter says an investigation is warranted and has suggested the Judiciary Committee take up the matter.

"The American people are entitled to be sure about the integrity of the game," he told the New York Times. "Itís analogous to the C.I.A. destruction of tapes. Or any time you have records destroyed."

Specter wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday, a day after he and other Judiciary Committee members quizzed Attorney General Michael Mukasey about the Justice Department's investigation into the destruction of CIA tapes, which reportedly show interrogators using harsh techniques, including waterboarding, on terror detainees.

He complained about Mukasey's "flat refusal" to provide requested information about the CIA tape-destruction because the Justice Department is in the midst of an investigation.

A lifelong-Philadelphia Eagles fan, Specter told the Times the NFL also was not initially responsive to his request. He first wrote the league about its "spygate" investigation Nov. 15 but did not receive a response until late Thursday. League representatives said they hadn't received the letters until last week and Specter's office did not mention them in subsequent discussions.

"It's the same old story," Specter said. "What you did is never as important as the cover-up. This sequence raises more concerns and doubts."

Last year, Specter, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others pressed the league to allow the Patriots final regular season game, which had been scheduled for the limited-availability NFL Network, to be simulcast on over-the-air stations.

Specter said it was too early to say how an investigation would proceed in the Judiciary Committee, which has previously looked into the antitrust exemptions afforded the NFL. Leahy's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ďI donít think you have to have a law broken to have a legitimate interest by the Congress on the integrity of the game. ... What if there was something on the tapes we might want to be subpoenaed, for example?" Specter asked the Times. "You canít destroy it. That would be obstruction of justice. ďItís premature to make any suggestions until you know a lot more about the matter. We need to know whatís on those tapes.Ē