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

Friday, August 12, 2005

Career Lawyer Gets Oversight of CIA Probe - Yahoo! News

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer

David Margolis, a lawyer at the Justice Department for 40 years, was named Friday to oversee a special prosecutor's investigation of who in the Bush administration disclosed the name of an undercover CIA officer.

Margolis, whose title is associate deputy attorney general, is taking the place of Deputy Attorney General James Comey, whose last day of work was Friday. Comey will be Lockheed Martin's new general counsel.

Comey made the designation of Margolis. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has stepped aside from the probe because he was White House counsel when Valerie Plame's name was leaked in 2003 and he has testified to the grand jury investigating the unauthorized disclosure.

Comey gave broad discretion to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago when he was appointed to investigate the leak in December 2003. Margolis is not expected to alter Fitzgerald's mandate in what are likely to be the final months of his investigation. The grand jury ends its term in October.

No one has been charged in the Plame case. However, it's known that Karl Rove, a top aide to President Bush, and Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, discussed Plame with reporters before her name was first published by columnist Robert Novak in July 2003.

New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to tell prosecutors to whom she talked about Plame.

The departure of Comey, who had been second in command at the Justice Department since 2003, leaves vacancies in two key posts. Christopher Wray resigned as head of the Criminal division in May.

President Bush has nominated Timothy E. Flanigan, once Gonzales' deputy in the White House, to take Comey's job. Alice Fisher has been nominated to lead the criminal division.

Neither has been confirmed. Flanigan faced tough questioning in his Senate confirmation hearing about his role in allowing aggressive interrogation techniques be used on detainees from Afghanistan and Iraq and his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., the Judiciary Committee chairman, indicated he might oppose Flanigan's confirmation because he didn't like his answers. A committee vote on Flanigan has not been scheduled, and the committee will begin hearings on John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court when Congress returns to work in September.

Fisher's nomination had been held up through July by at least two senators, one Republican, one Democrat. Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, was seeking to question an FBI agent about a delay in obtaining a wiretap in a terrorism financing investigation. Grassley lifted his objection after meeting with Gonzales.

Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., also met with Gonzales, but he continues to hold up Fisher's nomination because he wants to talk directly to an agent who wrote an e-mail about allegedly abusive interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility.

"In my weekly meetings with DOJ we often discussed (Defense Department) techniques and how they were not effective or producing intel that was reliable," the agent wrote. In his next sentence, he said Fisher, then the No. 2 in the criminal division, was among department officials who attended all the meetings.

Fisher has said she did not recall taking part in such discussions and Justice officials have said the agent did not intend to say she had. But Gonzales has refused to let senators question the agent, saying it violates long-standing policy.

After failing to persuade Levin to let Fisher's nomination proceed, Gonzales went public with the dispute, saying the vacancy was especially inopportune following terror attacks in England and Egypt in July.

Comey's departure "makes it imperative that key national security officials, such as Ms. Fisher, be confirmed so that the department is able to adequately respond to whatever emergencies may arise," Gonzales said in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.


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