A Washington attorney who represented President Clinton (search) at his impeachment trial and has a long association with Democrats will defend Sen. Richard Shelby (search), R-Ala., 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 Wednesday. 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 (search), who was vice chairman at the time of the leak, has said he has never "knowingly compromised classified information."

Besides serving as a lead attorney in Clinton's impeachment proceedings, Craig represented the father of Cuban immigrant Elian Gonzalez in a highly publicized custody battle. His numerous high-profile criminal cases included representing President Reagan's attempted assassin, John Hinckley, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., when he was a witness in the rape trial of Kennedy's nephew, William Kennedy Smith.

A former Kennedy adviser on defense, foreign policy and national security, Craig also was director of policy planning for Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

Although Shelby was a Democrat earlier in his career, he has cut most of those ties, so the choice of Craig to represent him raised some eyebrows. But unlike most standing committees, where Republicans have the majority, the ethics panel is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.

Shelby, up for re-election in November, doesn't appear to be in jeopardy of losing that race, regardless of how the ethics probe turns out.