WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Packwood, in what is probably a final try to protect the secrecy of his personal diaries, asked Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist yesterday to postpone for many months Senate ethics investigators' review of those tapes and papers.
The Oregon Republican's lawyers said that if Mr. Rehnquist or the full Supreme Court do not step in, the Senate Ethics Committee could start getting access to his papers next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
He asked the chief justice to put off any Senate access to his diaries until after both a federal appeals court and, later, the Supreme Court could rule on his constitutional challenge to the Ethics Committee's subpoena for his diaries covering the past five years. That process could take until sometime next year.
Little of his privacy would remain after the committee got the diaries, his attorneys said, because members and aides will be free to pore over "the senator's private reflections on his emotional and psychological life; innermost thoughts and feelings, sorrows and tribulations, over the course of many years."
The committee, the legal document argued, is carrying on an investigation that has grown so broad that it is now nearly "unlimited."
The committee originally began probing charges of sexual misconduct by the senator and of alleged attempts to silence witnesses involved in those incidents. More recently, it has said it will look into potential illegal uses of Mr. Packwood's position for private gain, and possible tampering with his diary tapes and transcripts.
Signaling an ultimate fight in the Supreme Court over his constitutional claims, Mr. Packwood's attorneys told the chief justice that his case would be an ideal one to settle major questions about Senate powers to dig into its members' personal papers in monitoring its members' behavior.