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

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sack Rove over spy leak, say Democrats

Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday July 13, 2005


Democratic party leaders yesterday called for the dismissal of President George Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, after evidence surfaced implicating him in the leaking of a CIA undercover agent's identity.
Mr Bush, who pledged last year to take action against anyone found responsible for the leak, ignored a journalist's question about Mr Rove's future yesterday.

But the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, having refused to discuss the issue on Monday, insisted that Mr Bush still had confidence in his aide. "Any individual who works here at the White House has the president's confidence. They wouldn't be working here if they didn't have the president's confidence," he told reporters.

The White House reticence was in sharp contrast to strong statements it issued in 2003 denying Mr Rove's involvement in the leak.

A grand jury is due to convene today to hear the latest evidence in the investigation sparked by the leak. It has been looking at whether administration officials disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame - a CIA undercover agent working in a counter-proliferation unit - to journalists two years ago, apparently to discredit criticism by her husband, Joseph Wilson, of the decision to go to war in Iraq.

An email by Time reporter Matt Cooper to his editors in July 2003 and published by Newsweek magazine on Sunday named Mr Rove as the source. Cooper said Mr Rove -the man Mr Bush lauded as "the architect" of his re-election victory - had told him on "double super secret background" that Mr Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Knowingly revealing the identity of an undercover agent is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Mr Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, acknowledged the authenticity of the Time email, but said it showed his client had not actually provided Mrs Wilson's maiden and professional name, Plame. However, the White House promised in 2003 to fire anyone who was even "involved" in the affair.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee distributed to its supporters "talking points" complaining of a political witchhunt.

More top Democrats yesterday called for his dismissal. Senator John Kerry, Mr Bush's opponent in last year's election, said at a congressional press conference: "Karl Rove ought to be fired." Hillary Clinton, a likely Democratic contender in 2008, nodded in agreement.

Political observers said it was too early to judge whether the controversy would cost Mr Rove his job. "You really can't say [whether or not] this is important to public opinion," said Andrew Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Centre, a Washington pollster.

"The key will be: how much support does Rove have among Republicans?"

So far, centrist Republicans have stayed silent, though the New York Times quoted "several prominent Republicans" as being "concerned about the possible effects on Mr Bush and his agenda ... because Mr Rove's stature makes him such a tempting target for Democrats".

The scandal was sparked by an article by a conservative commentator, Robert Novak.

Published on July 14 2003, it looked at Mr Wilson, a former US ambassador who a few days earlier had published a commentary questioning one of the claims made by Mr Bush as a justification for going to war in Iraq.

In his 2003 state of the union address, the president had cited British intelligence reports of Iraqi purchases of uranium in Africa, potential evidence that Saddam Hussein was working on a nuclear bomb. Mr Wilson discovered the claim referred to reports of uranium deals in Niger.

He had visited there the previous year on a CIA mission to look for evidence of such deals, but had found none.

Mr Wilson's commentary, four months after the invasion, caused uproar. The administration played down his claims. Novak questioned the seriousness of his mission. He wrote that he had been told by "two senior administration officials" that Mr Wilson's trip had been authorised by his wife, Valerie Plame, who was directly involved in monitoring the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The inquiry had faded from public view but made news recently after a judge ordered two journalists, Cooper and Judith Miller of the New York Times, to cooperate with it.

Novak did not receive such an order. He has refused to say whether he had already named to the grand jury his sources.

Time magazine handed over Cooper's notes and he agreed to testify after Mr Rove released him from his promise of anonymity. Miller was jailed last week for 120 days, after refusing to name her sources.

Niger, Iraq and the president's men

February 2002 Joseph Wilson, a former US ambassador, travels to Niger on behalf of the CIA to investigate claims Iraq was buying uranium. He finds no evidence

January 28 2003 George Bush repeats claim about Iraqi attempts to buy African uranium in his state of the union address laying out the case for war

July 6 2003 Wilson publishes account of Niger trip and questions Mr Bush's claims

July 14 2003 Robert Novak, a conservative commentator, quotes "two senior administration officials" as alleging Wilson's trip was authorised by his wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA agent. It is a federal offence to knowingly disclose the identity of an undercover CIA operative

September 26 2003 Justice department launches a criminal investigation

October 10 2003 White House denies any involvement by Karl Rove in the Plame affair

July 7 2005 New York Times reporter Judith Miller is jailed for failing to name government official who discussed Plame with her two years earlier. Novak refuses to say whether he has identified his own source to grand jury

July 10 2005 An email from Time reporter Matt Cooper to his editors, dated July 11 2003, names Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, as a source on Plame's identity

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005


Post a Comment

<< Home