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

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rove Would Lose Security Clearance Under Democrats' Plan

WASHINGTON, July 14 - Senate Democrats tried to add to Republican discomfort over the presidential adviser Karl Rove today as they called for legislation to deny security clearances to officials who unmask undercover agents.

The Democrats hoped to attach the measure to a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Should the maneuver succeed, and Republicans then resist the overall bill, Democrats could portray them as trying to block legislation vital to national security.

Votes on various amendments to the Homeland Security bill, including the one addressing security clearances, were expected to begin in midafternoon, with a vote on the overall bill possible by evening.

The amendment on security clearances was offered by the Democratic senators Harry Reid of Nevada, who is the minority leader, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan.

On the other side of the Capitol, several Democratic House members proposed a resolution calling for a Congressional investigation into the unmasking of the C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame Wilson, an episode that Representative Jay Inslee of Washington State said demonstrated that "this administration put partisan pettiness above national security."

President Bush, who was in Indianapolis today to address a black business group, said on Wednesday that he would withhold judgment on Mr. Rove until the conclusion of a federal grand jury investigation.

The disclosure two years ago, by the columnist Robert Novak, that Mrs. Wilson was a C.I.A. operative has raised questions over whether her unmasking was the work of the White House in retaliation against her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. Mr. Wilson had criticized the president's Iraq policy in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times a few days before Mr. Novak's column, which cited "two senior administration officials" in disclosing the name of Valerie Plame and her employment by the C.I.A.

For months, the White House categorically denied that Mr. Rove had anything to do with unmasking Mrs. Wilson, as she now prefers to be known, and President Bush said he would fire any White House employee found to have leaked classified information. But it came to light last weekend that in July 2003, Mr. Rove had alluded to Mrs. Wilson (though not by name) in an interview with a Time magazine reporter, Matthew Cooper, about a trip Mr. Wilson made to Africa on behalf of the C.I.A. to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to buy uranium there.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, has recently said that Mr. Rove did not take part in any organized effort to disclose Mrs. Wilson's identity, that Mr. Rove had broken no laws and that he had cooperated with the special federal prosecutor's grand jury investigation.

Since last weekend, Democrats have assailed Mr. Rove, the president's chief political strategist in the last two elections, asserting that at the very least the White House's earlier denials are suspect, and that perhaps Mr. Rove has something to hide.

Mr. Wilson said in an interview on NBC television today that Mr. Rove should be fired "for abuse of power."

"Karl Rove has now been caught," Mr. Wilson said. "The president really should stand up and prove to the American people that his word is his bond and fire Karl Rove."

But former President Bill Clinton said he was withholding judgment on what, if anything, should happen to Mr. Rove. "It depends on what the facts are," Mr. Clinton said in an interview on CNN. But he said that neither Mr. Wilson nor his wife had deserved the damage done to their lives and careers by the disclosure of her C.I.A. employment.

The Republican National Committee attacked Mr. Wilson today, telling reporters in an e-mailed statement that he is a far more partisan Democrat than he has portrayed himself to be.

Mr. Rove's allies have also emphasized that according to a recently disclosed e-mail message that Mr. Cooper sent to his Time bureau chief in July 2003, Mr. Rove did not use Ms. Wilson's name in the conversation or mention her undercover status. Rather, according to a copy of the message that Newsweek magazine said it had obtained, Mr. Rove had told Mr. Cooper only that it was "Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip" to Africa by Mr. Wilson.

House Democrats, meanwhile, said that the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's role, while petty politics, was also more than that. "It means that every undercover agent that we have around the world will be wondering whether her or his country will stand behind him," said Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey. He said no one at the White House should have known of Mrs. Wilson's role in the first place.

And Representative Inslee ridiculed the notion that because Mr. Rove had not mentioned Mr. Wilson's wife by name, he had not really identified her. "Well, unless Joe Wilson was a polygamist, we knew exactly who he was talking about," Mr. Inslee said.

Representative Henry Waxman of California said the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's C.I.A. employment was "reprehensible."

"The evidence emerged last weekend implicating Karl Rove himself in this leak of information from the White House," Mr. Waxman said. "Yet the White House has refused to answer basic questions. This is wrong given the gravity of the offense."


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