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

Thursday, November 17, 2005

CIA Leak Probe Fallout Unlikely to Fade - Yahoo! News

By TONI LOCY and PETE YOST, Associated Press Writers

Controversy surrounding the leak of a CIA operative's identity showed no signs of abating Thursday, dashing any hopes White House officials had that the investigation was nearing an end.

A group of former intelligence officers urged President Bush not to pardon anyone convicted of leaking Valerie Plame's name to reporters and to pull security clearances of any White House officials implicated in the investigation.

Plame's husband went on the airwaves urging the Washington Post to conduct an inquiry into why top reporter Bob Woodward kept his editor in the dark about an interview 17 months ago with a senior administration official about Plame's identity and her work at the CIA, a conversation a month before another journalist published her name.

The Woodward revelations renewed attention to an investigation into who was responsible for leaking Plame's name, an inquiry that had appeared to be winding down after last month's indictment of a top aide to Vice President Cheney.

"Obviously, the White House thought they were through with this investigation," said Steven Reich, a senior associate counsel to President Clinton. "It appears now that that information came out earlier than anyone previously thought and it potentially could have come from a source no one previously knew about."

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, 55, Cheney's former chief of staff, was charged with lying to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned about Plame's identity and her work at the CIA and when he subsequently shared that information with reporters.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in announcing the charges three weeks ago, portrayed Libby as the government official who first revealed Plame's name to reporters. At a news conference in Chicago Thursday, Fitzgerald ducked questions about how Woodward's assertion, that he got it first and from someone other than Libby, would affect the investigation.

After Fitzgerald was tipped by Woodward's source that they had discussed Plame in June 2003, Woodward met with the prosecutor and on Monday recounted their conversation. His account, but not the source's name, was reported in Tuesday editions of the Washington Post, renewing speculation about who leaked Plame's name and how high in the administration his source resides.

"The Libby case was always going to cause heartburn for the White House," said Washington defense lawyer E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., a former federal prosecutor. "But not like this."

Barcella said the White House could've tried managing news as the Libby case moved through hearings and toward trial on a predictable schedule.

"That's the legal realm," Barcella said. But the Woodward revelations put the investigation back in "the political realm," he said. "And that can have a daily impact" with sustained media coverage.

Plame's husband said Thursday the Post should conduct an inquiry into why Woodward didn't tell his bosses what he knew about the leak until last month and why he was allowed to publicly criticize the Fitzgerald investigation as a spokesman for the newspaper.

"I would hope that the Post would take the lead from what the New York Times did and do an inquiry about how this all happened and report back to its readers," Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, told The Associated Press.

Wilson was referring to the inquiry that the Times conducted after it was criticized for the way its former reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify about a source, and her editors handled the Plame matter.

Post spokesman Eric Grant did not return calls for comment.

Also on Thursday, 16 former intelligence officers released a letter they wrote to Bush early in the week asking for a pledge to not pardon anyone involved in the leak and to pull security clearances of anyone at the White House who spoke to reporters about the CIA status of Wilson's wife.

One of the letter's authors, former CIA analyst Larry Johnson, said the pledge on security clearances "definitely ... would apply to Woodward's source."

Johnson noted that Bush ordered everyone in the administration to cooperate with Fitzgerald nearly two years ago. "Clearly, there's someone at a senior level who hasn't fully cooperated," he said.


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