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

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

CIA Agents' Open Letter to U.S. Senate and House

18 July 2005


The Honorable Dennis Hastert, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Dr. William Frist, Majority Leader of the Senate

The Honorable Harry Reid, Minority Leader of the Senate

We, the undersigned former U.S. intelligence officers are concerned with the tone and substance of the public debate over the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak and other members of the media, which exposed her status as an undercover CIA officer. The disclosure of Ms. Plame’s name was a shameful event in American history and, in our professional judgment, may have damaged U.S. national security and poses a threat to the ability of U.S. intelligence gathering using human sources. Any breach of the code of confidentiality and cover weakens the overall fabric of intelligence, and, directly or indirectly, jeopardizes the work and safety of intelligence workers and their sources.

The Republican National Committee has circulated talking points to supporters to use as part of a coordinated strategy to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. As part of this campaign a common theme is the idea that Ambassador Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame was not undercover and deserved no protection. The following are four recent examples of this "talking point":

Michael Medved stated on Larry King Live on July 12, 2005, "And let's be honest about this. Mrs. Plame, Mrs. Wilson, had a desk job at Langley. She went back and forth every single day."
Victoria Toensing stated on a Fox News program with John Gibson on July 12, 2005 that, "Well, they weren't taking affirmative measures to protect that identity. They gave her a desk job in Langley. You don't really have somebody deep undercover going back and forth to Langley, where people can see them."

Ed Rodgers, Washington Lobbyist and former Republican official, said on July 13, 2005 on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, "And also I think it is now a matter of established fact that Mrs. Plame was not a protected covert agent, and I don't think there's any meaningful investigation about that."

House majority whip Roy Blunt (R, Mo), on Face the Nation, July 17, 2005, "It certainly wouldn't be the first time that the CIA might have been overzealous in sort of maintaining the kind of top-secret definition on things longer than they needed to. You know, this was a job that the ambassador's wife had that she went to every day. It was a desk job. I think many people in Washington understood that her employment was at the CIA, and she went to that office every day."

These comments reveal an astonishing ignorance of the intelligence community and the role of cover. The fact is that there are thousands of U.S. intelligence officers who "work at a desk" in the Washington, D.C. area every day who are undercover. Some have official cover, and some have non-official cover. Both classes of cover must and should be protected.

While we are pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an investigation and that the U.S. Attorney General has recused himself, we believe that the partisan attacks against Valerie Plame are sending a deeply discouraging message to the men and women who have agreed to work undercover for their nation’s security.

We are not lawyers and are not qualified to determine whether the leakers technically violated the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. However, we are confident that Valerie Plame was working in a cover status and that our nation’s leaders, regardless of political party, have a duty to protect all intelligence officers. We believe it is appropriate for the President to move proactively to dismiss from office or administratively punish any official who participated in any way in revealing Valerie Plame's status. Such an act by the President would send an unambiguous message that leaks of this nature will not be tolerated and would be consistent with his duties as the Commander-in-Chief.

We also believe it is important that Congress speak with one non-partisan voice on this issue. Intelligence officers should not be used as political footballs. In the case of Valerie Plame, she still works for the CIA and is not in a position to publicly defend her reputation and honor. We stand in her stead and ask that Republicans and Democrats honor her service to her country and stop the campaign of disparagement and innuendo aimed at discrediting Mrs. Wilson and her husband.

Our friends and colleagues have difficult jobs gathering the intelligence, which helps, for example, to prevent terrorist attacks against Americans at home and abroad. They sometimes face great personal risk and must spend long hours away from family and friends. They serve because they love this country and are committed to protecting it from threats from abroad and to defending the principles of liberty and freedom. They do not expect public acknowledgement for their work, but they do expect and deserve their government’s protection of their covert status.

For the good of our country, we ask you to please stand up for every man and woman who works for the U.S. intelligence community and help protect their ability to live their cover.

Sincerely yours,

Larry C. Johnson, former Analyst, CIA


Mr. Brent Cavan, former Analyst, CIA

Mr. Vince Cannistraro, former Case Officer, CIA

Mr. Michael Grimaldi, former Analyst, CIA

Mr. Mel Goodman, former senior Analyst, CIA

Col. W. Patrick Lang (US Army retired), former Director, Defense Humint Services, DIA

Mr. David MacMichael, former senior estimates officer, National Intelligence Council, CIA

Mr. James Marcinkowski, former Case Officer, CIA

Mr. Ray McGovern, former senior Analyst and PDB Briefer, CIA

Mr. Jim Smith, former Case Officer, CIA

Mr. William C. Wagner, former Case Officer, CIA

Rove Stories the Media Should Investigate

By common sense
From: Media Table
There are still a number of important stories about the Karl Rove leak that I have yet to see any of the mainstream media pick up on. And now that the White House is trying to tempt the media to ignore the Rove story by presenting them with an earlier than expected Supreme Court nominee, it is important that we continue to remind the media not to forget about their duty to the public to examine this serious national security issue of intelligence leaks and abuse of power.

Below are a few of the stories that I would like to see the media report on. I welcome others to add suggestions as well.

Jul 19, 2005 -- 04:21:00 PM EST

1. What are the national security implications for leaks like this? (And please, ask national security and CIA experts, not political hacks)

2. What personal connections do Rove's biggest public defenders have with him? (In fact, it would be nice if television anchors pointed out at the beginning of interviews how influential Rove was in the careers of those speaking on his behalf so that audience members wont be deceived into thinking that those "experts" are completely unbiased)

3. What is Judith Miller's connection with the neo-conservatives? What kind of "reporter" is she?

4. What do regular people (not including people in the media or academics) think about Judith Miller, the role of the press in helping lead us into war, etc.? A mixture of polls and actual interviews would be nice. (I'm sick of listening to the press analyze themselves, without getting any outside of the beltway input)

5. What have been the experiences of some others who have crossed Rove in the past? Interviews with people like: Ann Richards, John McCain's adopted daughter, and almost anyone interviewed in the documentary about Rove called "Bush' Brain" would be informative. Newspapers and television news have barely even touched the surface on providing any background on Rove's methods of operation.

6. Examine what the impact leaks like these have on democracy.

7. How does the White House's disregard and manipulation of Intelligence compare to their disregard and manipulation of Science? Are they using the same methods of operating in diregarding policy experts in Scientific fields as they are in disregarding on the ground national security experts in the CIA and elsewhere on national security matters?

8. How do people in other parts of the world perceive this story? Does it make them like America more, as Bush (who so many around the world hate) becomes less popular here? Does it make them hate America more, because they see this as more proof that America lies and disregards the worth of individuals simply trying to do their best (like Valerie Plame)? Does it make them question Bush more, because he claims to support the spread of democracy and this appears to show his White House undermining democratic values by abusing its powers to attack individual citizens?

Rove Scandal: Distractions and Disinformation

David Corn

The Nation -- I first posted the following on my blog: If you're obsessed with the Rove scandal, visit that site for more news, analysis, and gripes.

Now that I've been sucked into the right-wing disinformation machine, I am struck by how unrelenting it is. Cliff May posted a dumb column claiming that Joe Wilson told me on background that his wife was an undercover operative and that I was the first person to really out Valerie Wilson (nee Plame). I debunked that nonsense here. But pesky May still sent me email asking me to explain what I had already explained. By not accepting my explanation--and by claiming that what I've written previously is misleading--he is essentially calling me a liar. I take such things personally. (This fellow once asked me if I would be willing to be his partner in a right/left cable-TV face-off. I'm glad it never came to pass.) And there he was again yesterday on CNN expanding his web of fabrication. He said:

You can say what you want about Bob Novak. He has insisted since the beginning that he didn't know she was a secret agent. He just knew she worked at the CIA. Nobody told him that. And if he had known she was secret, he wouldn't have published her name. Now who did publish her name first was David Corn of "The Nation," and he was the first one to say she was a secret agent, and he did that in a conversation with, guess who, with Joe Wilson.

How does one combat repeated silliness of this sort? Who knows what Novak would have done had he been told Valerie Wilson was an undercover officer? And maybe he was told. All we know is that Novak claims the CIA informed him it would prefer if he not name her but did not go ballistic about it. This tale may be true; it may not. (In his own account, Novak still turned down the CIA.) Moreover, Novak did publish her name first. It's right there in the column that prompted the CIA to ask the Justice Department to investigate the White House. CNN anchor Carol Costello should have stopped May and told the audience he was either lying or misspeaking. And May states as a fact that Wilson told me his wife was an undercover officer, even though he has no evidence of this and I have said precisely the opposite. What chutzpah! He doesn't even have an anonymous source to rely on. Is this the sort of journalism he learned when working at The New York Times? Or did he perfect his smear skills when he subsequently served as a spokesperson for the Republican Party? In his absurd article, he at least had the courtesy to present his bogus charge as the product of his own deductive reasoning (as defective as it was). On CNN, he stated as a fact that Wilson had spilled the beans to me about his wife--which is not true.

Having responded fully to his initial piece, I was not going to fuel this sideshow with further comment. But yesterday, I was on a public radio program--Warren Olney's To The Point--discussing the Rove scandal with Byron York, a columnist for the National Review. And as our segment was ending, he piped up and said, Well, Bob Novak didn't really out Valerie Wilson as an undercover official; it was David Corn. The show was ending, and I barely had time to exclaim, "Preposterous," and refer listeners to my website. But this is what happens: one person launches an unfounded smear and then others employ it. The point: I'm now thrown on defense, and, perhaps more importantly, a distraction has been achieved.

Disinformation, distraction--that's the plan, as trouble-causing details emerge from the investigation that threaten Karl Rove and other senior Bush aides. For GOP operatives, it's all-hands-to-the-deck time. And the strategy is to fire whatever ammunition the have, whether it is real or a dud. They want to turn this into a partisan mud-wrestle, realizing that much of the public turns off to such cat-and-dogs nastiness. They try to make the victims the culprits, calling Joe Wilson the biggest liar of all time and making claims about Valerie Wilson that are unsupported by the known facts (e.g., she was no more than a desk jockey). Change the focus to anything but what Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and other White House aides did and whether the White House and the president has covered up for them.

One could spend all day responding to the disinformation and misinformation--and that's their goal. A few days ago, The Washington Times put into circulation a quote from a former CIA officer who once supervised Valerie Wilson and who claimed she wasn't really a covert officer. The newspaper wrote:

A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an "undercover agent," saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.

"She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat," Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.

"Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his friends knew this. A lot of blame could be put on to central cover staff and the agency because they weren't minding the store here....The agency never changed her cover status."

Mr. Rustmann, who spent 20 of his 24 years in the agency under "nonofficial cover"--also known as a NOC, the same status as the wife of Mr. Wilson--also said that she worked under extremely light cover....

"She was home for such a long time, she went to work every day at Langley, she was in an analytical type job, she was married to a high-profile diplomat with two kids," Mr. Rustmann said. "Most people who knew Valerie and her husband, I think, would have thought that she was an overt CIA employee."

The newspaper didn't emphasize that Rustmann knew nothing about Valerie Wilson's CIA duties after he left the agency in 1990. Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst who went through training with Valerie Wilson at the CIA, told me that "my understanding is that Valerie went undercover after 1990." If that's true, then quotes from Rustmann are rather irrelevant. Yet I saw his remarks scattered across the Internet, as the distracters and disinformationalists look for any stone to hurl. Even The Washington Times partially refuted Rustmann's remarks when it quoted one neighbor of the Wilsons--David Tilloston--who said he did not know she worked at the CIA and thought she was an economist.

So much to disabuse, so little time. Let's turn now to Victoria Toensing, a Republican lawyer and commentator who was involved in drafting the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. I've had pleasant dealings--professional and social--with her over the years, and many moons ago I was friendly with her daughter, a wonderful photographer. But Toensing sure is doing her duty for her side. Here's a bit from today's Washington Post:

Victoria Toensing, a lawyer and longtime Republican who helped write the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which is at the center of this case, said Bush is now saying what he probably meant to say when the leak investigation was launched. "Of course you are going to be concerned if a law was broken," she said. "But what is it that somebody did wrong if they didn't break the law?"

Toensing has been in Washington long enough to realize that not all wrongdoing in Washington is criminal. But she's now toeing the White House line: only aides convicted of a crime will be fired. (In Washington, when the supertanker White House changes its course, all the tug boats have to follow.) Compare her observation to a portion of a New York Times article published today:

Elaine D. Kaplan, who from 1998 to 2003 was head of the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that investigates complaints of prohibited personnel practices, said: "Government employees and officials who are negligent with classified information can lose their jobs for carelessness. They don't have to be convicted of intentionally disseminating the information. Crime has never been the threshold. That's not the standard that applies to rank-and-file federal employees. They can be fired for misconduct well short of a crime."

Much of the attention has (justifiably) been on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. But as Representative Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record) has recently noted, when Rove shared Valerie Wilson's employment status at the CIA--which was classified information--he might have violated Executive Order 12958, which says:

Officers and employees of the United States Government...shall be subject to appropriate sanctions if they knowingly, willfully, or negligently....disclose to unauthorized persons information properly classified.

So the Bush/Toensing standard--leaking classified information that outs a CIA undercover officer and then not coming clean about it is not a firing offense; you're in trouble only if you break the law--is not based in law. Shouldn't she know that?

But truth is not the issue at hand. Winning is. For the right, that means firing up the fog machine and creating as many smokescreens as possible. This comes as no surprise. Still, I find it disheartening. (I can only imagine how Valerie Wilson feels.) Larry Johnson says it's a sign of how desperate the White House and its pals are. He quips, "I love the smell of fear in the morning. It smells like victory." Perhaps. A conservative journalist I know recently emailed to say he was coming to Washington and to ask if I wanted to have drinks with him (which we have occasionally done in the past). I told him I'm in no mood these days. He has yet--as far as I know--not pushed Cliff May's ridiculous Corn-did-it trash. But I need some way to vent my anger and disappointment at folks like May, York and Toensing. This episode is causing Bush's defenders to go to the most ugly extremes. Maybe Larry Johnson is right.

Karl Rove's Nondisclosure Agreement

Author: Rep. Waxman
Published on July 15, 2005, 11:30

A fact sheet released today by Rep. Waxman explains that the nondisclosure agreement signed by Karl Rove prohibited Mr. Rove from confirming the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Wilson to reporters. Under the nondisclosure agreement and the applicable executive order, even "negligent" disclosures to reporters are grounds for revocation of a security clearance or dismissal.

Today, news reports revealed that Karl Rove, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff and the President's top political advisor, confirmed the identity of covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson with Robert Novak on July 8, 2003, six days before Mr. Novak published the information in a nationally syndicated column. These new disclosures have obvious relevance to the criminal investigation of Patrick Fitzgerald, the Special Counsel who is investigating whether Mr. Rove violated a criminal statute by revealing Ms. Wilson's identity as a covert CIA official.

Independent of the relevance these new disclosures have to Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation, they also have significant implications for: (1) whether Mr. Rove violated his obligations under his "Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement" and (2) whether the White House violated its obligations under Executive Order 12958. Under the nondisclosure agreement and the executive order, Mr. Rove would be subject to the loss of his security clearance or dismissal even for "negligently" disclosing Ms. Wilson's identity.


Executive Order 12958 governs how federal employees are awarded security clearances in order to obtain access to classified information. It was last updated by President George W. Bush on March 25, 2003, although it has existed in some form since the Truman era. The executive order applies to any entity within the executive branch that comes into possession of classified information, including the White House. It requires employees to undergo a criminal background check, obtain training on how to protect classified information, and sign a "Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement," also known as a SF-312, promising not to reveal classified information.1 The nondisclosure agreement signed by White House officials such as Mr. Rove states: "I will never divulge classified information to anyone" who is not authorized to receive it.2

Mr. Rove, through his attorney, has raised the implication that there is a distinction between releasing classified information to someone not authorized to receive it and confirming classified information from someone not authorized to have it. In fact, there is no such distinction under the nondisclosure agreement Mr. Rove signed.

One of the most basic rules of safeguarding classified information is that an official who has signed a nondisclosure agreement cannot confirm classified information obtained by a reporter. In fact, this obligation is highlighted in the "briefing booklet" that new security clearance recipients receive when they sign their nondisclosure agreements:

Before confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not, confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure.3


Mr. Rove's attorney has implied that if Mr. Rove learned Ms. Wilson's identity and occupation from a reporter, this somehow makes a difference in what he can say about the information. This is inaccurate. The executive order states: "Classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure of identical or similar information."4

Mr. Rove was not at liberty to repeat classified information he may have learned from a reporter. Instead, he had an affirmative obligation to determine whether the information had been declassified before repeating it. The briefing booklet is explicit on this point: "before disseminating the information elsewhere ... the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified."5


Mr. Rove's attorney has also implied that Mr. Rove's conduct should be at issue only if he intentionally or knowingly disclosed Ms. Wilson's covert status. In fact, the nondisclosure agreement and the executive order require sanctions against security clearance holders who "knowingly, willfully, or negligently" disclose classified information.6 The sanctions for such a breach include "reprimand, suspension without pay, removal, termination of classification authority, loss or denial of access to classified information, or other sanctions."7


Under the executive order, the White House has an affirmative obligation to investigate and take remedial action separate and apart from any ongoing criminal investigation. The executive order specifically provides that when a breach occurs, each agency must "take appropriate and prompt corrective action."8 This includes a determination of whether individual employees improperly disseminated or obtained access to classified information.

The executive order further provides that sanctions for violations are not optional. The executive order expressly provides: "Officers and employees of the United States Government ... shall be subject to appropriate sanctions if they knowingly, willfully, or negligently ... disclose to unauthorized persons information properly classified."9

There is no evidence that the White House complied with these requirements.

Niger and Iraq: the war's biggest lie?

Investigation: Neil Mackay reveals why everyone now accepts that claims Saddam Hussein got uranium from Africa are fraudulent ... except, that is, Britain's beleaguered prime minister and his Cabinet supporters


In February 1999, Wissam Al Zahawie, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See in Rome, set off on a series of diplomatic visits to several African countries, including Niger. This trip triggered the allegations that Iraq was trying to buy tons of uranium from Niger -- a claim which could yet prove the most damning evidence that the British government exaggerated intelligence to bolster its case for war on Iraq .
Some time after the Iraqi ambassador's trip to Niger, the Italian intelligence service came into possession of forged documents claiming Saddam was after Niger uranium. We now know these documents were passed to MI6 and then handed by the British to the office of US Vice-President Dick Cheney . The forgeries were then used by Bush and Blair to scare the British and Americans and to box both Congress and Parliament into supporting war. There are an increasing number of claims suggesting Bush and Blair knew these documents were forged when they used them as evidence that Saddam Hussein was putting together a nuclear arsenal.

The truth behind claims that Blair's government 'sexed up' intelligence reports that Saddam could mobilise weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes may never be known, but the Niger forgeries lie like a smoking gun covered in Britain's fingerprints. At some point Tony Blair is going to have to answer questions about what the British government and MI6 were up to.

The fact that the documents were forged matters less than the purpose to which they were put. On September 24, 2002, Blair's dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government said: 'There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme of nuclear power plants and, therefore, has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium.'

On January 28, 2003, Bush, in his State of the Union address, said: 'The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.' Bush didn't stop there -- later, there was talk of 'mushroom clouds' unless Saddam was taken out.

It was the International Atomic Energy Agency which rumbled the documents as forgeries -- a task that their experts were able to complete in just a matter of hours. Here are just four examples of how easy it was to work out the documents were, as one intelligence source said, 'total bullshit':

In a letter from the President of Niger a reference is made to the constitution of May 12, 1965 -- but the constitution is dated August 9, 1999;

Another letter purports to be signed by Niger's foreign minister, but bears the signature of Allele Elhadj Habibou, the minister between 1988-89;

An obsolete letterhead is used, including the wrong symbol for the presidency, and references to state bodies such as the Supreme Military Council and the Council for National Reconciliation are incompatible with the letter's date;

It wasn't until just before the war began that Mohamed El Baradei, IAEA director-general, told the UN Security Council on March 7 that his team and 'outside experts', had worked out that ' these documents ... are in fact not authentic'.
Exactly who was behind the forgeries is unclear but the finger of suspicion points towards some disaffected or bribed official in Niger . What looks more certain is that Bush and Blair were warned the documents were rubbish before El Baradei told the UN. The IAEA says it sought evidence about the Niger connection from Britain and America immediately after the US issued a state department factsheet on December 19, 2002, headed 'Illustrative Examples of Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council'. In it, under the heading 'Nuclear Weapons', it reads: 'The declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?' But the IAEA, despite repeatedly begging the UK and US for access to papers, wasn't given any documents until February 2003 -- six weeks later.

Well before the IAEA rained on the pro-war parade, the CIA was telling its masters in the Bush administration that the British intelligence on the Niger connection was nonsense. Vice-President Dick Cheney's office received the forged evidence in 2002 -- before Bush's State of the Union address on January 28 this year -- and passed it to the CIA. The CIA then dispatched former US ambassador Joseph C Wilson to Africa to check out the claim. Wilson came back saying the intelligence was unreliable and the CIA passed Cheney the assessment. Nevertheless, Bush kept the claim in his speech, and Cheney said, just days before the war began in March, that: 'We know (Saddam's) been absolutely trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.' He also poured scorn on the IAEA for saying the documents were forged. 'I think Mr El Baradei frankly is wrong ... (The IAEA) has consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past.'

Wilson said it was Cheney who forced the CIA to try to come up with a credible threat from Iraqi nukes. 'I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. A legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretences,' he wrote. Wilson also said: 'It really comes down to the administration misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war. It begs the question: 'What else are they lying about?''

Wilson is no rogue official. He was lauded by George Bush Snr for 'fighting the good fight' after he became the last US diplomat to confront Saddam in the run-up to the first Gulf war. The irony isn't lost on Wilson, who says: 'I guess he didn't realise that one of these days I would carry that fight against his son's administration.'

Greg Thielmann, director of the State Department's Office of Strategic, Proliferation and Military Issues, says the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research ruled the Niger connection implausible and told US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Thielmann also said Iraq posed no nuclear threat, and Team Bush distorted intelligence to fit its drive for war. Richard Kerr, a former CIA deputy director now leading a review of the agency's pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMDs, says intelligence was ambiguous and the CIA was under pressure from the Bush administration.

The CIA, in what one British intelligence source described as a 'wise attempt at an ass-saving manoeuvre', also tried to have reference to Iraq's uranium links to Niger deleted from Bush's State of the Union address. CIA officials say they 'communicated significant doubts to the administration about the evidence'. Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, disputes the claim, saying the CIA cleared the reference made by Bush.

The CIA also tried to save Blair's ass too. In September, before publication of the UK dossier citing the Niger connection, the CIA tried to persuade Britain not to use the claim. CIA figures say the agency was consulted by the UK and 'recommended against using that material'. Blair, however, continues to defend the allegation, claiming the UK has separate intelligence -- or 'non-documentary evidence' -- to back up the Niger claim, proving Britain wasn't solely reliant on the forgeries. That's quite a different tack to the White House, which shamefacedly admitted on Monday that Bush's uranium claim was based on faulty British intelligence and shouldn't have been included in the State of the Union address. But Bush is determined not to find himself in the same situation as Blair -- facing calls for his resignation over claims that he lied. On Friday, CIA director George Tenet said he was to blame for Bush's use of the bogus uranium claim . He said the insertion was a 'mistake', the CIA cleared the speech and 'the President had every reason to believe the text presented to him was sound'. But that doesn't tally with high-level intelligence that the Niger claim was written into the President's Daily Brief -- one of the most top-level intelligence assessments in the US, prepared by the CIA and given to Bush and other very senior officials.

Also significant was the refusal by Colin Powell to use the uranium claim when he addressed the UN on February 5 calling for war. On Thursday, Powell said it was not 'sufficiently reliable'. With Bush trying to get off the hook, Blair looks as if he could be twisting in the wind -- unless he has this 'other evidence' to back up the Niger connection. It should be pointed out that it would be extremely difficult for Niger to sell uranium in quantities large enough to be weaponised as its mines are controlled by France and its entire output goes to France, Japan and Spain. E xperts say it couldn't be smuggled out unnoticed. One western diplomat said: 'As far as I know, the only other evidence Britain has about the Niger connection is based on intelligence coming from other western countries which saw the same forgeries. Blair's claim that he has other evidence is nonsense. These foreign intelligence agencies are basing their claims on the same forgeries as the Brits.'

The diplomat's accusations tally with a letter sent in April, before the White House climbdown, by the State Department to Democrat House of Representative's member Henry Waxman, who has been demanding answers on the deception carried out against the American and British people. In it, the State Department admits that it received intelligence from the UK and another 'western European ally' -- which many believe to be Italy -- that Iraq was trying to buy Niger uranium. But it adds: 'not until March 4 did we learn that, in fact, the second western European government had based its assessment on the evidence already available to the US that was subsequently discredited'. In other words, as one intelligence source said: 'It was based on the same crap the British used'. Given the letter is dated April 29, this information invites the question: why did it take until last week for the White House to admit the Niger connection was rubbish?

Another State Department letter to Waxman makes the astonishing admission that when America handed the Niger documents to the IAEA they included the qualification 'we cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims' -- hardly the same tune that Bush and Blair were singing with their claims that Saddam was chasing down Niger uranium.

We know that Blair's 'other' evidence backing the Niger connection includes second-hand or even third-hand intelligence -- and that it doesn't come from the UK. Nor has this intelligence been passed to the IAEA (in accordance with UN resolution 1414). The Foreign Office says: 'In the case of uranium from Niger, we did not have any UK-originated intelligence to pass on.'

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the Niger uranium claim was based on 'reliable evidence', which was not shared with the US. Although the Foreign Affairs Select Committee hasn't seen the evidence either, Straw told its chairman, Donald Anderson, the 'good reasons' for withholding the intelligence from the US in a private session. Blair won't say why the information is being kept under wraps , but he tells the nation there is no reason to doubt its credibility.

Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien said on June 10 that all relevant information on Iraqi WMDs had been sent to weapons inspectors -- but less than a month later he was contradicted by another Foreign Office minister, Denis MacShane, saying the UK didn't give the IAEA any information on Iraq seeking uranium. One senior western diplomat told the Sunday Herald: 'There were more than 20 anomalies in the Niger documents -- it is staggering any intelligence service could have believed they were genuine for a moment.

'I know that the IAEA told Britain and America, two weeks before El Baradei made his statement to the UN in March, that the documents were forgeries, that the IAEA was going to publicly state the documents were faked. At that point, the IAEA gave them a chance -- they asked the US and UK if they had any other evidence to back up the claim apart from the Niger forgeries. Britain and America should have reacted with shock and horror when they found that the documents were fake -- but they did nothing, and there was no attempt to dissuade the IAEA from its course of action.

'The IAEA had said it would follow up any other evidence pointing towards a Niger connection . If the UK and US had had such evidence they could have forwarded it and shut the IAEA up -- El Baradei would never have gone public if that had happened. My analysis is that Britain has no other credible evidence.' The source added: 'The weapons inspectors have friends in the CIA and the State Department . They made sure the documents made their way to the IAEA as they knew fine well they'd be exposed as forgeries.

'If I was prosecuting someone in a court of law and I brought in what I knew to be forgeries in an attempt to convict you, the case would be thrown out immediately and it'd be me in the dock. The case wasn't thrown out against Iraq, however, and what we are left with is an ominous sense of the way intelligence was treated to promote war. There are only two conclusions: one is that Britain has intelligence but kept it from the weapons inspectors, which they should not have done under international law, or that they don't have a thing. If they did have intelligence, then why not show it to the world now the war is over'.

An IAEA source said the issue was 'now a matter for the UK and the USA to deal with'. The IAEA, as well as UNMOVIC inspectors, feel discredited and humiliated after their bruising encounters with the UK and US. One UN diplomat said: 'They're bitter, but perhaps now they may have some solace as the truth seems to be coming out. It's obvious that we could have done this without a war -- but the evidence shows war would have happened regardless of what the inspectors could have done as that was the wish of Bush and Blair. Everyone, it seems, was working for peace -- except them.'

Protests against Karl Rove planned at Gerlach fundraiser

By Kimberly Hefling / Associated Press

Washington - White House adviser Karl Rove was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser Tuesday night for Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., and Democratic activists were planning a protest.

"Our question to Jim Gerlach is why are you seeking the support of somebody who put politics ahead of patriotism?" said Tom Matzzie, Washington director for, a liberal group behind the protest.

Rove, the architect behind President Bush's election victories, is at the center of a federal investigation into a 2003 news leak that exposed the identity of a CIA officer. Some Democrats have called for his resignation.

Gerlach barely defeated Democratic attorney Lois Murphy in 2004 to win his second term in the district, which is made up of parts of Berks, Chester, Montgomery and Lehigh counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. He won by 2 percentage points, despite raising $2.3 million and spending $2.1 million on the race.

John Brabender, a campaign adviser to Gerlach, said Democrats are frustrated about Murphy's loss to Gerlach.

"I think they're going to run their typical negative-after-negative-type campaign and as usual not put forward any positive ideas," Brabender said.

Murphy, who has filed to run again against Gerlach in 2006, released a statement calling on Gerlach to cancel the fundraiser.

"Until Rove's role in the controversy is explained to the satisfaction of the American people, Jim Gerlach should not seek to benefit from Rove's support for his political campaign," Murphy said.

Brabender said Gerlach did not consider canceling Rove's visit at the fundraiser because it would have sent the wrong message. He said the fundraiser was scheduled sometime ago, but he did not know the number of people expected to attend.

"In this country we respect people's rights and until a time that some court or somebody proves that somebody has done something wrong, that we treat people with respect," Brabender said.

Gerlach started the month with $742,704 on hand, and Murphy had $106,329. Another Democratic opponent, Mike Leibowitz, had $3,000 cash on hand.

Wall Street Journal enters Rove fray: State Dept. memo made clear info 'shouldn't be shared'

by: Raw Story

A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document, the (paid-restricted) Wall Street Journal reports Tuesday. Excerpts follow.

News that the memo was marked for its sensitivity emerged as President Bush yesterday appeared to backtrack from his 2004 pledge to fire any member of his staff involved in the leaking of the CIA agent's name. In a news conference yesterday that followed disclosures that his top strategist, Karl Rove, had discussed Ms. Wilson's CIA employment with two reporters, Mr. Bush adopted a different formulation, specifying criminality as the standard for firing.

The memo's details are significant because they will make it harder for officials who saw the document to claim that they didn't realize the identity of the CIA officer was a sensitive matter. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, may also be looking at whether other crimes -- such as perjury, obstruction of justice or leaking classified information -- were committed.

On July 6, 2003, former diplomat Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, disputing administration arguments that Iraq had sought to buy uranium ore from Africa to make nuclear weapons. The following day, President Bush and top cabinet officials left for Africa, and the memo was aboard Air Force One.

The paragraph in the memo discussing Ms. Wilson's involvement in her husband's trip is marked at the beginning with a letter designation in brackets to indicate the information shouldn't be shared, according to the person familiar with the memo. Such a designation would indicate to a reader that the information was sensitive. The memo, though, doesn't specifically describe Ms. Wilson as an undercover agent, the person familiar with the memo said.

According to the person familiar with the document, it didn't include a distribution list. It isn't known if President Bush has seen the memo.

The piece also reveals a response from Ari Fleischer:

Mr. Novak attempted to reach Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, in the days before his column appeared. However, Mr. Fleischer didn't respond to Mr. Novak's inquiries, according to a person familiar with his account. Mr. Fleischer, who has since left the administration, is one of several officials who testified before the grand jury.

The Nixon White House Would Blush

Rep. John Conyers / Huffington Post

Can there be any doubt after today that a president who rode into town promising “honesty and integrity” has brought our ethical standards to a new low?

We now have a White House operation in place that is a pure, unadulterated political machine, with no discernible ethical scruples. They think nothing of baselessly attacking any and all political opponents – just ask Senator Max Cleland and John McCain. And they will circle the wagons around their key loyalists, no matter how culpable – see Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

We learned from Downing Street, that the White House was willing to “fix the facts around the policy,” no matter the cost in lives or our nation’s reputation. Rovegate involves the same modus operandi: When faced with a growing scandal before the election, Bush righteously promised to throw out any and all leakers. McClellan went so far as to tell us it would be “ludicrous” to accuse Rove or Libby of leaks. Now that there is no doubt that those statements are false and, presto, the standard has changed to “if someone committed a crime.”

The powers that be at the White House really can’t be so naive as to believe that the American public will fall for this charade, so the only possible conclusion is that they have entered into a “save Rove at all costs strategy,” even if it means making earlier statements “inoperative” and eliminating any and all White House ethical standards short of criminal misconduct. Apparently, “Bush’s brain” is so central to the White House operation, that Bush is willing to bet his presidency on the outcome of Fitzgerald’s investigation. To me that is truly scary.

Two articles out today to bring to your attention. First, the AP has a story on Bush’s changing the ethical rules in the middle of the game, including a quote by the undersigned.

Second, the LA Times has an excellent overview of where we are and how we got here.

There is really no doubt at this point that two key political operatives in the White House, namely Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, set about to smear Joe Wilson. They used the media to out a CIA operative, vehemently denied they had done so, and now that they cannot deny it any more, Bush backtracked to change the standard for dismissal from leaking to criminal misconduct. Now they are simply hoping and praying that both the necessary level of legal willfulness cannot be shown and that the press and Democrats can be bullied or intimidated into thinking that ethics -- as well as internal security requirements -- don't matter.

Look for the White House to try to change the subject very soon.

Leak probe could damage Bush's straight-shooter image

By Mark Silva / Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON - In pursuit of the White House, George W. Bush first campaigned throughout Iowa with the same pledge he voiced at the 2000 Republican National Convention, where he was nominated for the presidency: "I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected."

Now, with his personal credibility already slipping in opinion polls and controversy swirling around his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, Bush finds himself uttering the promise that he delivered Monday in the East Room of the White House: "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

This appears to be a far looser ethical standard, Democratic critics were quick to point out on Monday, than the White House's original assertion that anyone "involved" in leaking the name of a covert CIA agent to the media two years ago would have no place in the Bush administration.

Since then, it has been revealed that not only Rove, but also Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, assisted Time magazine's Matt Cooper in his reporting about the CIA agent, according to Cooper's account of his testimony to a grand jury last week.

For an administration that takes pride in high standards of personal conduct, and for a president who came to office amid public frustration over the personal conduct of his predecessor, the newest twists of a federal investigation into who leaked the agent's identity could be taking a political toll.

Bill Clinton was elected more because of his perceived competence and empathy than any notion that his personal ethics were above reproach, analysts say. But Bush has made much of being a straight-shooter whose word is always good, so the image of his top aides parsing their language and contradicting themselves could undermine that.

"It's not actually the leak anymore, but the cover-up," said Kenneth Warren, professor of political science at St. Louis University. "It's hard to justify the very clear comments ... made that Karl Rove was not involved and Bush saying that anyone who leaked would be held accountable. Now they are stonewalling."

For a week, the president and his spokesman have maintained that they cannot comment about the investigation of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Chicago-based U.S. attorney who is probing leaks that led to columnist Robert Novak and then Time identifying Valerie Plame, wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, as a CIA agent.

Rove told Cooper that the wife of Wilson, a Bush administration critic, worked at the CIA, but did not identify her by name or role, Cooper said he told the grand jury. Libby confirmed for Cooper that Wilson's wife worked at the agency.

Those stories followed Wilson's published criticism of administration claims that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium in Africa, criticism that caused consternation at a White House then making its case for Hussein's overthrow.

The White House, once adamant that Rove played no role in those stories apparently aimed at discrediting Wilson, now refuses to comment.

"We have a serious ongoing investigation here," Bush said Monday when pressed about the matter in an East Room appearance. "I think it's best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions.

"I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts," the president added. "And if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

That sounded like a step back from assertions made in 2003 by White House spokesman Scott McClellan that Rove had no involvement in identifying Plame. McClellan also said then that Bush had "made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."

But following Bush's remarks on Monday, McClellan said, "I would not read into it any more than what the president said ... It's best at this point that we just let the investigation continue."

Democrats, who have been calling for Rove's resignation or suspension of his security clearance, had another reading on Bush's new rules for judging Rove's responsibility in the matter.

"I am disappointed that the president seems to have changed his standard," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "The standard for holding a high position in the White House should not simply be that you didn't break the law."

Bush launched his first bid for the White House with a direct appeal to the sensibilities of voters who had been offended by Clinton's ethical lapses in his relationship with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and his initial insistence that he had never had sexual relations with Lewinsky.

Across Iowa, and in appearances throughout his early campaign, supporters cheered as Bush uttered a promise that he repeated at his party's convention in Philadelphia, saying that "the president himself must be responsible ... and uphold the honor and dignity of the office."

Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University, viewed the campaign firsthand.

"In the first place, the campaign in 2000 was a campaign ... against Clinton's personal moral failings and scandals," he said.

And Goldford was watching last week as Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman went on a television news program in Des Moines, Iowa, with his argument that Democrats are attempting to smear Bush with the Rove affair.

"It's more of a PR problem for Bush right now," Goldford said. "But none of this, of course, implicates Bush personally. It's his subordinates ... If push comes to shove, you throw the subordinate under the bus."

The president's political standing has slipped in recent months. The percentage of Americans who believe Bush is "honest and straightforward" declined to 41 percent in a survey taken July 8-11 by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal. That was down from 50 percent in January.

Gordon Fischer, a lawyer in Des Moines and former chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Bush campaigned as "a straight-shooter."

It will take a little time, Fischer suggested, to determine what price Bush pays politically.

"It will be very interesting this week to see whether it will be a topic of water cooler discussion," he said.

New TV Ad Campaign from 'Fire Karl Rove'; President Flip-Flops on Pledge to Fire Leaker

Distribution Source : U.S. Newswire

Date : Tuesday - July 19, 2005

To: National Desk, Political Reporter

Contact: Trevor Fitzgibbon, Jessica Smith, Steve Smith or Alex Howe, 202-822-5200, all for

WASHINGTON, July 19 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A new TV ad calls on the President to keep his word and fire his top political advisor Karl Rove for disclosing the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, a covert CIA agent.

The ad features White House spokesman Scott McClellan contradicting his 2003 statements when asked last week if the President plans to fire Karl Rove.

The ad begins airing tomorrow, within 48 hours of the President's flip-flop on an earlier commitment to fire anyone involved in blowing her cover.

In June 2004, when asked whether he would fire anyone involved in the Plame outing, President Bush replied, "Yes" to a group of reporters. On Monday, however, the President flip-flopped and added the qualifier that it would have to be shown that a crime was committed.

Two senior White House officials, Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have been implicated in the scandal for outing the agent.

"The President should stand by his pledge to the American people and fire Karl Rove," said Tom Matzzie, Washington Director of Political Action.

"Karl Rove recklessly and maliciously revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative to discredit critics of the Iraq war. Rove either broke the law or was grossly negligent. In either case, he damaged our national security and shouldn't be working in the White House," said Matzzie.

In September 2003, Bush told reporters, "I want to know the truth," after news of the investigation had burst into headlines. "If anybody has got any information, inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business."

"The President should tell us who came forward, what that person said, and what action, if any, he took. He needs to keep his promise and fire Karl Rove and anyone else involved," Matzzie added.

The ad can be found on Political Action's Web site at To obtain a copy of the ad, please contact Alex Howe at 202-822-5200 or


The text of the ad follows. Political Action

TV :30

"Fire Rove"



AUDIO -- REPORTER 1: Wilson now believes that the person who did this was Karl Rove...

MCCLELLAN: I haven't heard that. That's just totally ridiculous.


MCCLELLAN: If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.


REPORTER 1: Don't you owe the American people a fuller explanation?

MCCLELLAN: David, there will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time.


MCCLELLAN: The White House is not going to comment on it.

MCCLELLAN: We're not going to get into commenting.

MCCLELLAN: You have my response.

MCCLELLAN: We're not going to get into commenting on it.

MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.


AUDIO -- ANNOUNCER (VO): Political Action is responsible for the content of this advertisement.


/© 2005 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

Bush Raises Threshold for Firing Aides In Leak Probe

By Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 19, 2005; A01

President Bush said yesterday that he will fire anyone in the administration found to have committed a crime in the leaking of a CIA operative's name, creating a higher threshold than he did one year ago for holding aides accountable in the unmasking of Valerie Plame.

After originally saying anyone involved in leaking the name of the covert CIA operative would be fired, Bush told reporters: "If somebody committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

This is a small, but potentially very significant, distinction, because details that have emerged from the leak investigation over the past week show that Karl Rove, Bush's top political aide, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, discussed Plame with reporters before her name was revealed to the public. It is unclear whether either man committed a crime, according to lawyers familiar with the case.

Democrats pounced on Bush's comments to accuse him of trying to shield White House aides from future punishment.

"This is about the credibility of the president of the United States," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "He said he would fire anyone who was involved in leaking this sensitive information. Now, he's changing his tune."

Reid and other Democrats said that even if administration aides did not violate the law, they should lose their security clearances -- if not their jobs -- for trafficking in information about a CIA operative.

But Bush, speaking to reporters during a news conference with Indian Prine Minister Manmohan Singh, said, "It's best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions."

Prosecutors are nearing the end of an inquiry into whether Rove, Libby or any other administration official broke the law. This is a difficult crime to prove because it must be shown that the person who leaked her name knew not only that Plame had covert status but also that the government was trying to conceal it.

Rove has admitted discussing Plame with two reporters but told the grand jury he was not aware at that time that she was covert, a lawyer familiar with his testimony said. Less is known about Libby's role, although he has cleared several reporters to discuss with prosecutors his conversations with them.

Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter who testified before a grand jury last week about conversations with Rove and Libby about Plame, said that when he asked Libby if he knew Plame worked at the CIA, Libby said he heard that she did. Libby's attorney could not be reached to comment.

It is still not clear who was the original source of information about Plame, though prosecutors have asked several witnesses about a State Department memo that circulated inside the administration before Plame was unmasked by columnist Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003. The memo said Plame worked for the CIA and played a role in her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, being sent to Niger in 2002 to investigate allegations it was selling nuclear materials to Iraq, according to people familiar with the document.

Wilson reported back that the allegations appeared unfounded. When he went public in 2003 with these conclusions, they challenged Bush's argument for going to war and set in motion a White House effort to discredit him. Federal prosecutors are trying to determine if the anti-Wilson campaign crossed the line by exposing Plame's identity.

Ari Fleischer, then the White House spokesman, was one of several people who prosecutors believe may have seen the memo. A source close to the case, confirming a report yesterday by Bloomberg News, said that a White House phone log turned over to prosecutors showed that Novak telephoned Fleischer on July 7, 2003, a day after Wilson alleged that Bush hyped intelligence about Iraq. Fleischer has told prosecutors he did not return the columnist's call, the source said.

Aides did not dispute that Bush appeared to raise the bar yesterday for what it would take for him to fire people involved the leak.

In June 2004, Bush was asked if he would "fire anyone found to" have leaked the agent's name. "Yes," he replied. Some Republican officials pointed to other quotations to dispute that Bush had changed his view, notably on Oct. 6, 2003, when he said: "This is a serious charge, by the way. We're talking about a criminal action."

Victoria Toensing, a lawyer and longtime Republican who helped write the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which is at the center of this case, said Bush is now saying what he probably meant to say when the leak investigation was launched. "Of course you are going to be concerned if a law was broken," she said. "But what is it that somebody did wrong if they didn't break the law?"

A former Justice Department official who talks frequently to people involved in the case said signs point to special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald focusing on the aftermath of the leak rather than the disclosure.

"I think he made his decisions months ago that there wasn't a crime when the leak occurred," said the former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Now, he's looking at a coverup: perjury, obstruction of justice, false statements to an FBI agent."

A few discrepancies have emerged in public statements about the case, offering clues to potential contradictions being examined by the grand jury. Cooper wrote in his Time account of his grand jury appearance that "a surprising line of questioning had to do with, of all things, welfare reform." But Cooper wrote that he "can't find any record of talking about it with him on July 11, and I don't recall doing so." Rove has maintained that the conversation was initially about welfare reform, according to a lawyer familiar with his side of the story.

In the court of public opinion, the Bush administration is slipping. Only one in four people surveyed -- 25 percent -- said the White House is fully cooperating with the leak investigation, down from 47 percent in September, according to a new poll by ABC News.

Staff writer Carol Leonnig and polling director Richard Morin contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company