News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bush qualifies pledge to fire CIA leaker

By Patricia Wilson / Reuters

President Bush on Monday shifted from a broad pledge to fire whoever leaked a covert CIA agent's identity, by vowing to dismiss any person found in federal probe to have committed a crime.
Bush, whose top political adviser Karl Rove has been caught up in the controversy, told reporters he did not know all the facts and urged them to wait until the inquiry was complete before "you jump to conclusions."
"I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration," Bush said at a news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Asked on June 10, 2004, whether he stood by his earlier pledge to fire anyone found to have leaked the officer's name, Bush replied: "Yes." On Monday, he added the qualifier that it would have to be shown that a crime was committed.
The Democratic Party accused Bush of lowering the "ethics bar" in his new comments.
Bush, saying there was a "serious ongoing" inquiry under way into who revealed the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, refused as he did last week to comment on specifics of the case.
"I want to know all the facts," he said. "The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who is spending time investigating it."
It is against the law for a government official to knowingly expose a covert CIA agent.
Rove has been named by a Time magazine reporter as one of the sources who identified the agent to the media, before she was named in a newspaper column in July 2003.
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has said his client "has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of the investigation" by a special prosecutor into the leak.
The Time reporter, Matthew Cooper, said Rove was the first person to tell him that the agent, who is married to a prominent critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, worked for the CIA.
Cooper said he told a grand jury last week that Rove told him the woman worked at the "agency," or CIA, on weapons of mass destruction issues, and ended the call by saying "I've already said too much."
He said Rove did not disclose the woman's name, but told him information would be declassified that would cast doubt on the credibility of her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who had charged the Bush administration with exaggerating the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs in making its case for war.
Wilson accuses the Bush administration of leaking his wife's name in retribution.
Prominent Democrats have called on Bush to fire Rove, the architect of his two presidential election victories and now his deputy chief of staff, or block his access to classified information.
Some Republicans have sprung to Rove's defense, saying he did not break any laws because he did not reveal her name and may not have known she had undercover status.
"Faced with a question about whether or not he will keep his promise to fire those involved in leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent while we are at war, President Bush backed away from his initial pledge and lowered the ethics bar," Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said.
"Bush should be prepared to keep his word, and to enforce a high standard of ethics in the White House as he promised from the beginning of his administration."
Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited


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