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

Monday, July 25, 2005

Secrets and Leaks: The Costs and Consequences for National Security

Remarks by Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to The Heritage Foundation

I want to thank The Heritage Foundation for inviting me here to speak, and I appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts on the damage caused by leaks. They say timing is everything in politics—so it is only fitting that we are having this discussion today.

The issue of leaks has been front and center in the news, in case some of you hadn’t noticed. And I’m not just talking about Valerie Plame. While much has been made of the revelation of her name, it is not my intention to rehash or debate the particulars of that case today. In due time, the Independent Counsel will release his report, and all the facts of the situation will be made clear.

But if you cut through all the partisan rhetoric surrounding this case, it does help to bring the issue of leaks to the forefront. At this moment we are debating in ways we never have before issues surrounding the revelation of classified information. There is a bill before the Senate to create a media shield law, there are discussions on the classification process and whether too much information is being classified, and most importantly, we are debating the public’s right to know more about the activities of their government.

At the outset, I want to make it clear that I am a firm believer in representative government and the people’s right to know. As such, I am committed to doing more of the Intelligence Committee’s hearings in public and to reviewing the issue of how much the government classifies.

But today, my scope is more narrowly focused on the issue of leaks of classified information, which I break into three different categories: accidental, deliberate and espionagerelated.

It has become all too common—almost second nature—for people in Washington to leak information. Policymakers may leak for any number of reasons, such as to bring attention to a good news story or discredit a bad story. They may also leak information to gauge public interest on a new policy or issue. But some seemingly leak just because they can.

These are the people, and especially those that have access to classified information, that we need to worry about.

On the walls of the Intelligence Committee are framed posters from World War II that remind of the dangers of leaks. “LOOSE LIPS MIGHT SINK SHIPS,” says one poster that was originally sponsored by the House of Seagram’s. Another poster shows a ship in flames, its crew bobbing in the water and on lifeboats with the statement, “A CARELESS WORD ... ... A NEEDLESS SINKING.” The ghosts of leaks past serve as potent reminders for us of the dangers of leaks today.

Each year, countless unauthorized leaks cause severe damage to our intelligence activities and expose our capabilities. The fact of the matter is, some of the worst damage done to our intelligence community has come not from penetration by spies, but from unauthorized leaks by those with access to classified information.

Were it not for a leak, there is a chance we could have brought Usama bin Laden to justice by now and have a better understanding of the al-Qaida operation. Several years ago, highly sensitive information was disclosed regarding the intelligence communities’ ability to collect information on bin Laden. Reportedly as a result, bin Laden changed his methods of operation, and we lost a valuable means of understanding alQaida’s movements and future plans.

Now I realize there may be times when a person entrusted with classified information makes an unintentional disclosure. But, the Intelligence Community must be prepared to deal with these instances because all classified leaks can be dangerous.

When it comes to deliberate disclosures of classified information, however, we must create a culture within the Intelligence Community where zero tolerance is the norm. People entrusted with a security clearance must realize their clearance is not a right, it is a privilege, and it must be treated as such. Just because a person has a security clearance does not give them the authority to exercise leadership in determining what should and should not be classified.

Earlier this year, for example, the Department of Justice arrested Lawrence Franklin, a Pentagon defense analyst, for removing 83 documents from the Pentagon. Amazingly, this is not the first time Mr. Franklin was accused of compromising classified information, but his clearances were never suspended or revoked. We have to ask, did the previous leniency shown to Mr. Franklin contribute to his decision to go even further in revealing classified information? And then we should be outraged. It is painfully obvious we must change the culture within the Intelligence Community.

The inability to protect our sources and methods from intentional leaks causes substantial damage to our intelligence services and national security.

After 9/11, the intelligence community was blamed for not sharing information or translating pieces of intelligence in a timely manner to prevent the attacks from occurring. People should be equally upset that there are individuals who deliberately leak classified information. If that information gets into the hands of our enemies it can help them plan future attacks.

We know the enemy pays very close attention to open-source materials, like U.S. newspapers and the Internet, in order to gain a better understanding of our objectives and capabilities.

A June 2002 memo from the CIA discusses the damage caused when classified information is reported in the media. It reads in part, “Information obtained from captured detainees has revealed that al-Qaida operatives are extremely securityconscious and have altered their practices in response to what they have learned from the press about our capabilities. A growing body of reporting indicates that al-Qaida planners have learned much about our counter-terrorist capabilities from U.S. and foreign media.” By combining traditional open source materials with leaked classified materials our opponents have gained powerful insights into what our plans, capabilities and intentions are.

We also know that unauthorized leaks put strains on our relationships with foreign intelligence services. Despite being the best at what we do, it is impossible to collect every piece of intelligence in every corner of the world. As a result, we count on foreign intelligence services to help fill-in the gaps.

Unauthorized leaks could have a significant impact on whether foreign governments continue to share critical information with our intelligence agencies. And quite frankly, I cannot blame them.

The reality is, many foreign leaders and their governments provide us with valuable help in the war on terror, but they do so at tremendous political peril. If the United States cannot promise to protect classified information and where we got it from, why should we expect these leaders, or even our overt allies, to be willing to share their information?

Information sharing with foreign intelligence services will play a significant role in our intelligence collection capabilities in the future. The loss of foreign partners would undoubtedly create overwhelming gaps in our ability to collect good intelligence around the globe.

Some of you may have seen an article from a few weeks ago that discussed possible coordination between the U.S., France and other governments in the war on terror. While I understand the public has a certain interest in knowing what the government is doing to protect them, we have to ask, where is the balance. What was the benefit of publishing that story?

Reports that discuss sensitive partnerships, whether accurate or not, hinder our abilities to work with our friends on intelligence activities. Some foreign nations work with our agencies because it is not widely known that they are doing it. That secrecy is important for future operations.

The Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction reports the Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq's biological weapons program in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and other pre-war intelligence products. The primary reason for this misjudgment was the Intelligence Community's heavy reliance on a source—codenamed “Curveball”—whose information later proved to be unreliable.

This misjudgment could have been avoided if we were able to receive key information from our allies. The decision by a foreign intelligence service not to share a critical source seriously undermined our ability to assess his credibility. Despite numerous requests by the CIA, the foreign government refused to provide us direct access to Curveball because of past leaks from within our government.

The classified annex to the Silberman-Robb Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction discusses numerous cases over the past several years that have cost American taxpayers plenty, not to mention the harm caused by the exposure of our assets, methods and capabilities. Because it is classified I cannot elaborate further, but you do not need to read a classified annex to get a sense of the frequency that leaks occur and the damage they cause. I am confident the terrorists are not reading the classified annex to get their information.

Leaking sensitive information is like giving the enemy our play book. In 2002 a newspaper obtained classified information about top secret war plans leading up to the invasion in Iraq. Then last week, there were wire service stories on possible American and British plans to bring troops home by the end of the year. Whether accurate or not, these types of stories put our operational capabilities at risk and allow the enemy to manipulate the information for possible use against our brave men and women in uniform.

How much damage has to be done before people finally say enough is enough? We must get serious about re-evaluating leaks and our response to them.

The primary question is how do we do that?

If you talk to the different agencies, especially the Justice Department, they will tell you that leaks occur so frequently because it is extremely difficult to identify who leaked the information and then obtain a successful prosecution.

This is a problem I expect to get worse, not better, as we continue to press for increased information sharing community-wide. Agencies do not have the resources to spend months investigating a case when there is no way to narrow down the list of people who had access to the information. Simply put, more people have access to more information than ever before, and while it is necessary, it makes investigating leaks even that more difficult.

We also have to contend with the fact that there is no comprehensive statute that provides criminal penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information regardless of the type of information or the recipient involved.

As a result, the Department of Justice is left with a “patchwork” of statutes to go after those who leak. Subsequently, there has only been one prosecution for nonespionage disclosure of classified information in the last 50 years. In the case of United States v. Morrison, the courts found the defendant guilty of providing classified information to Jane’s Defense.

And President Clinton pardoned Morison before he left office.

We need to bring new energy to this debate. The threat leaks pose to our national security is alarming, and it is imperative we do more to protect our national secrets.

Whether people deliberately leak information or they don’t realize the information they are discussing is classified, the fact that leaks continue is evidence that people in the intelligence community are not being properly educated on the importance of protecting our secrets.

The community, upon direction from the DNI, should implement a community-wide campaign to educate individuals about their legal obligations and possible penalties for failing to safeguard intelligence information.

In addition, we need to give the Department of Justice all the tools it needs to identify and prosecute individuals who deliberately share classified intelligence. The time has come for a comprehensive law that will make it easier for the government to prosecute wrongdoers and increase the penalties, which hopefully will act as a deterrent for people thinking about disclosing information.

In the coming months, I intend to hold a round of hearings on this issue and invite key officials from Justice, CIA and the Defense Department, among others, to testify on ways the Intelligence Community can do more to prevent leaks.

If they agree to attend, I would also like to invite members of the press to testify before the committee. Journalists provide an important service to the American people, but they can also play a key role in preserving our national security.

The recent interest in leaks has inspired some Members of Congress to introduce a Media Shield Law, which would protect journalists from disclosing their sources. While I believe this may be permissible in most cases, this bill could have serious implications if passed without exceptions when our national security is at risk.

There needs to be a balance between protecting journalists and protecting national security. I believe we can find that balance.

The Silberman-Robb Commission recognized “the enormous difficulty of this seemingly intractable problem” and concluded that “the long-standing defeatism that has paralyzed action on the topic of leaks is understandable but unwarranted.”

I too share that assessment, and I look forward to a full and vigorous debate on this issue.

Thank you all for coming, and again, thank you to The Heritage Foundation for assembling today’s panel and for beginning a focused, public dialogue on this issue.

Leak Investigation: The Russert Deal—What It Reveals - Newsweek Periscope -


Aug. 1 issue - A deal that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald cut last year for NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert's testimony may shed light on the emerging White House defense in the Valerie Plame leak case. The agreement between Fitzgerald and NBC avoided a court fight over a subpoena for Russert's testimony about his July 2003 talk with Dick Cheney's top aide, Lewis (Scooter) Libby. The deal was not, as many assumed, for Russert's testimony about what Libby told him: it focused on what Russert told Libby. An NBC statement last year said Russert did not know of Plame, wife of ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson, or that she worked at the CIA, and "he did not provide that information to Libby."

This now appears significant: in pursuing Russert's testimony, Fitzgerald was testing statements by White House aides—reportedly including Libby—that they learned about Wilson's wife from reporters, not classified documents. Libby's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. A source close to Karl Rove, who requested anonymity because the FBI asked participants not to comment publicly, says the White House aide—who passed info about Wilson's wife to Time's Matt Cooper—only knew about her CIA job from either a reporter or "somebody" who heard it from a reporter; he can't remember which or who. Rove did not initially discuss his talk with Cooper with the FBI, but later volunteered info about it and called agents' attention to a subpoenaed e-mail he had written to national-security aide Stephen Hadley mentioning the conversation, the source said.

The emerging White House defense is important in light of recent attention on a classified State Department memo that had key info about Wilson's wife. The memo, dated June 10, 2003, was labeled top secret at the top of the first page; a paragraph referring to "Valerie Wilson" at the CIA had the letters snf in front of it, for "Secret No Foreign," meaning the info is secret and can't be shared with any foreign national, says a government official who reviewed it but asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the material. The memo was taken by Secretary of State Colin Powell aboard Air Force One during a trip to Africa in July 2003, and Fitzgerald has questioned White House aides about who saw it. Fitzgerald has been said to be investigating whether any aides violated the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act—which makes it a felony to disclose the identity of a covert CIA employee: it requires showing the violator knew the agent's undercover status. (The State memo makes no reference to that.) But the CIA's initial "crimes report" to the Justice Department requesting the leak probe never mentioned that law, says a former government official who requested anonymity because of the confidential material involved. Fitzgerald may be looking at other laws barring the disclosure of classified info or the possibility that current or former White House aides made false statements or obstructed justice.

—Michael Isikoff

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
© 2005

The Raw Story | Conyers writes Bush: Promise you won't pardon those who outed agent

07/25/2005 @ 12:44 pm
The following letter was dispatched from the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee to President Bush Monday, and copied to RAW STORY.

July 25, 2005

The President
The White House
Dear Mr. President:

I write in order to seek your pledge that you will not pardon anyone who has worked or is currently working in your Administration pursuant to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution in the event that any such individual is either prosecuted for, or convicted of, a crime in connection or relation with the disclosure of Valerie Wilson's identity as a CIA operative or any related matter.

Your handling of the Valerie Wilson matter already appears to be replete with examples of lessening regard for high standards of ethical and legal behavior. First, you refused to respond to a request by myself and 90 Members of Congress that you ask Karl Rove, one of your top advisors, to either disclose his role in the outing of Mrs. Wilson or resign and, indeed, have allowed him to remain on your staff without doing so. Second, on July 18, 2005, you changed the threshold for terminating your staff from leaking the identity of Mrs. Wilson to the necessity for an actual crime to have been committed. On repeated occasions, you have permitted your staff to mislead and/or lie to the American people in connection with this matter without disciplinary consequences. For several years, your press secretary, Scott McClellan, assured the American people that neither Mr. Rove, I. Lewis Libby, nor Elliot Abrams were involved in the leak; just this past month, however, we learned that both Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were sources for Ms. Plame's identity. Mr. McClellan remains undisciplined for his statements. I am therefore concerned that these low ethical standards foreshadow future actions on your part that will allow individuals responsible for this breach of national security to evade accountability.

As you may recall, many questioned the propriety of your father sealing the case records and pardoning six individuals from his Administration who were implicated by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh in the Iran-Contra case. When issues of the executive's pardon power involving members of his own Administration were raised during investigations involving the Clinton Administration, the House Judiciary Committee, of which I serve as Ranking Member, held a hearing concerning the constitutional limits of the President with regards to the power of executive clemency. During those hearings, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) presciently stated, "Improperly exercised, the pardon is a travesty of justice - an act borne not of mercy, but of tyranny."

There is little doubt that outing an intelligence operative is one of the most serious offenses under our laws, as it endangers not only the operative, their family, and their employer, but jeopardizes other operatives and intelligence assets, and our nation's security. To do so during a time of war for purposes of a political vendetta makes the offense far worse. That is why when in connection with the drafting of our Constitution, Alexander Hamilton wrote, the "power of pardoning in the President has . . . been only contested in relations to the crime of treason." I hope you agree with Mr. Hamilton that there is no justification for using pardon powers in any way to insulate those who would commit such acts of disloyalty against our nation.

I look forward to your earliest response to this important matter. Please have your office respond to my Judiciary Committee office at 225-6504, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.



John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member
House Judiciary Committee - The Rove problem - Jul 25, 2005

By Nancy Gibbs

Valerie Plame had no reason to welcome a reporter into her home last week. Reporters tell stories and trade secrets, and her life, once a state secret, had become one of the most widely told stories in years. As if anyone could resist it: beautiful blond mother of two whose identity as a CIA spy is compromised by a political vendetta against her husband.

She opens the door of her brick house on the leafy Washington side street, a few turns from the German embassy. A Jaguar convertible sits in the driveway, the toys and bikes in the garage. There are children playing on the floor inside, and her look is icy as she asks, "Is my husband expecting you?" A British journalist had recently turned up at the door unannounced, and she's still angry. "I almost tackled you," she admits to TIME's Massimo Calabresi, and you have to wonder what a trained covert operative who was known as a crack shot with an AK-47 would care to do at the moment to the reporters and Administration officials who had laid her secret bare.

But she seems harmless now as she goes about making her grocery list. It's not as if she's a woman of mystery anymore: she has gone back to work at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, after a leave of absence; she has been photographed for Vanity Fair, snapped at the Tribeca Film Festival; she has stood beside her flamboyant husband, the former ambassador, bestselling author, all-around gadfly Joe Wilson, as he accepted accolades from liberal groups for being among the first to puncture President George W. Bush's case for war. But her friends at the agency tell TIME that the furor around her "destroyed her career. And it's put her at risk." All she'll say is, "Things have been busy. I have 5-year-old twins."

Nor is it a mystery any longer who had a hand in revealing where Wilson's wife worked to TIME White House correspondent Matthew Cooper and at least confirming it for columnist Robert Novak. Wilson had never been shy about his suspicions: he had dreamed aloud of seeing the President's chief strategist Karl Rove "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." Only now it was official: last Wednesday, Cooper had testified to the grand jury investigating the leak that it was indeed Rove who told him Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, though without using her name.

That Rove was a secret source was already public knowledge after Newsweek published the contents of one of Cooper's e-mails that Time Inc. had given to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald after resisting all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the company's appeal.

But that does not mean that all the mysteries are solved, or that Rove will be tarred and feathered and fired. This has always been a tale in which what is not known is as important as what is, and so the spotlight shifts once more, to Fitzgerald and what he has learned about the motives and methods behind the outing of Valerie Plame.

It is no longer clear even what crime he is investigating: the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a federal offense to intentionally reveal a covert operative's identity. But the law was designed to be hard to break, and last week lawyers with knowledge of the case suggested that Fitzgerald might be investigating a different crime--perhaps perjury or obstruction of justice.

It had to be something serious, they suggested, for Fitzgerald to have interviewed the President and Vice President, to have threatened Cooper with prison time if he didn't testify and to have insisted that New York Times reporter Judith Miller go to jail for contempt of court when she refused to. Much about Fitzgerald's hunt is still a secret: in the court ruling demanding that the reporters reveal who leaked Plame's name, several pages were blacked out for national-security reasons.

In the vacuum of facts, partisans on both sides headed straight for their armories; it felt like five years of political warfare in concentrated form. Naturally it would feature Rove, as brass-knuckled a player as has walked onstage in a generation. But in addition there was John Kerry, promoting a Fire Rove petition on his Web site. There was Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman declaring that it was not Plame or Wilson but Rove who was the victim of "blatant partisan political attacks." There was White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who had once called the notion that Rove was involved "ridiculous," looking like a piñata as he refused again and again in long and painful press conferences to comment on the implications of Rove's being a source for reporters.

President Bush, who had vowed to fire anyone in his Administration who turned out to have leaked the name of Wilson's wife and blown her cover, was left declaring that "this is a serious investigation" and had nothing to say for the moment about Rove.

And all the while, Rove's defenders were artfully pivoting from saying he hadn't done anything to saying he hadn't done anything wrong, that Plame wasn't really a secret agent anyway, or if she was, Rove didn't know that, or if he did, he only brought her up because he was trying to keep reporters from writing a bad story based on Wilson's false charges, and besides, it was a reporter who blew Plame's cover to him in the first place and not the other way around.

The whole thing felt at times like a half-glimpsed game of charades; but the fight matters because the issues at stake matter: the ongoing struggle between the Administration and the intelligence community, the debate over the case for going to war, the tensions over the role and rights of a free press, the eternal distinctions between what is legal and what is right. Until Fitzgerald issues his report, there will be no way to know if anyone committed a crime. But in the meantime, there is plenty of evidence of recklessness, ruthlessness and political passion that have made the search for the truth all that much harder.

Roves Repertoire
In the long and lively mythology of Karl Rove, whom Republicans see as a fearless gladiator and Democrats view as the kind of operative who would put a tarantula under an opponent's pillow, it is entirely plausible that he would try to discredit an adversary by any means necessary. But outing a spy? Compromising national security in wartime? It was the first President Bush who once described anyone who exposed intelligence assets as "the most insidious of traitors."

Rove had long insisted that he didn't know Valerie Plame's name or leak it and was cooperating fully with the probe. By last week, that denial had come to seem Clintonian in its legal precision. It's true Rove didn't tell Cooper her name but rather referred to her as Wilson's wife. On the other hand, a simple Google search of Ambassador Wilson turned up her name but not her affiliation. The evolving explanation of Rove's role was enough to let Democrats dream that they might have snared him at long last, while Republicans retorted that, far from incriminating Rove, the latest evidence exonerated him.

Part of what has made Rove a legend is his passion for his work. He is not the kind of political professional who does battle during the day and then breaks bread with his adversary at night. When Rove assails an opponent, he believes what he's saying. And it may be his capacity for convincing himself that his adversaries are vile, corrupt, dangerous and stupid that makes the job of destroying them come so easily. So when Joe Wilson emerged in July 2003 as a well-credentialed critic of the Administration's case for going to war, he placed himself squarely in Rove's sights.

Here was a former ambassador, an Africa expert, who could flaunt his pictures with past Presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike--including one with President George H.W. Bush, who had called Wilson a hero for his service as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad before the first Gulf War.

When Wilson wrote in the New York Times on July 6, 2003, nearly four months after the war began, that "intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat," it represented the most damaging charge yet against the Administration's handling of prewar intelligence. Wilson explained that CIA officials recruited him to help them answer questions raised by Vice President Cheney's office about an intelligence report documenting the attempted sale of uranium yellowcake by Niger to Iraq. The officials asked him to travel to Niger in February 2002 "to check out the story."

His article suggested that when he failed to come up with answers the Administration wanted, they ignored his findings, since Bush went on to claim in his January 2003 State of the Union message that according to British intelligence, Iraq had recently sought uranium from Africa.

Wilson's charge that top officials had deliberately distorted his findings set off a furor in Washington. Fitzgerald has set out to learn how it was that a week after the column appeared, Wilson's wife's cover was blown. How did people in the White House learn of her status and connection to Wilson in the first place, who shared it, and how did it come to be discussed with reporters? Fitzgerald has shown particular interest, legal sources told TIME, in a classified State Department memo that was forwarded to the White House the day after Wilson's article appeared. It was marked for delivery to then Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was traveling with the President to Africa that day.

The memo, originally dated June 10, 2003, identified Plame and discussed her role in recommending her husband for the mission to Niger. It had been written by the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research at the request of former Under Secretary Marc Grossman after the New York Times and Washington Post began reporting on an intelligence-gathering trip to Niger by a former U.S. diplomat, without naming Wilson. Sending it to Powell "was directly in response to Wilson going public," says a senior Republican Hill aide familiar with the document. "[It was] ... one of those what-the-hell-is-this-guy-saying-and-what-is-he-talking-about? memos."

Fitzgerald has shown at least a part of the memo to some of the subjects of the investigation with the appropriate security clearance, asking if they had ever seen it before. The prosecutor believes that the memo circulated among officials aboard Air Force One, according to sources familiar with Fitzgerald's line of questioning. Some traveling reporters to Africa were told on background that Wilson was sent to Niger by a low-level staff member at the CIA. At one point, White House officials on the trip were saying, "Look who sent him," as if to spur reporters to dig deeper.

According to sources close to the investigation, Fitzgerald seemed most interested in whether officials who stayed at the White House while the President was in Africa also had the memo that week, when the first known calls to reporters took place. Details of the memo, if not the memo itself, may have been shared with one or more White House officials well before Wilson's article appeared.

Rove and I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, have told prosecutors they had never seen the document, according to sources familiar with their statements. But Rove had learned Plame's identity from someone: a source who has been briefed on Rove's account to Fitzgerald, says Novak called Rove the next day, July 8, and mentioned to him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. According to the source, Rove replied, "I've heard that too," and told Fitzgerald that he had heard it from a reporter--or perhaps from someone else in the Administration who said he got it from a reporter--Rove just couldn't be certain or remember which one.

All through that week, the Administration was on damage control. On Friday, July 11, CIA Director George Tenet took the heat by declaring that the CIA should not have okayed the uranium claim in the State of the Union address. On that day, Rove took a call from Cooper, who was in his first weeks as a White House correspondent for TIME. "Spoke to Rove on double super secret background," Cooper e-mailed TIME's Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy and his deputy James Carney afterward. "... his big warning....don't get too far out on wilson."

Cooper wrote that Rove disparaged Wilson for presenting a "flawed" and "suspect" explanation of the genesis of the trip. What's more, Rove told Cooper, neither Cheney nor the CIA director had authorized Wilson's mission in the first place--a claim Wilson never made, although the former ambassador would imply that the two knew of his trip. Cooper described the conversation with Rove, adding that it was "wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues, who authorized the trip. ... he implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium from Niger ... don't get too far out front, he warned. then he bolted ..."

What was the point of Rove or anyone else bringing up Plame in the first place? Was he saying Wilson was tainted by his close association with the CIA, whose analysts had generally been too skeptical of the Iraqi threat for the administration's taste?

The tensions between the White House and the CIA had been rising steadily in the months before the Iraq invasion, as CIA analysts complained about evidence being distorted or ignored and the White House pushed back with complaints about the quality of the intel they were getting. "I know the analyst who was subjected to withering questioning on the Iraq-- al-Qaeda links by Libby with the Vice President sitting there," says a CIA analyst. "So I think there was an anger at the CIA for not getting it and not being on board. The political side of the Administration was pissed at the CIA. So I can see how they responded to that--and Wilson--by implying he couldn't be trusted because, 'well, just look where his wife works.'"

Or, more personally, was Rove suggesting that Wilson was chosen not for his expertise but because his wife was trying to help him stay in the game? Certainly Rove distorted her role when he claimed she had authorized the trip. "She was not in a position to send Joe Wilson anywhere except to bed without his supper," says Larry Johnson, a Plame classmate at the CIA who later worked on Central American issues for the agency and then moved to the State Department as a counterterrorism officer. According to a declassified July 7, 2004, report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, it was Plame's boss, the deputy chief of the CIA's counterproliferation division, who authorized the trip. He did so after Plame "offered up" her husband's name for the Niger mission, according to the report. In a February 12, 2002, memo to her boss, Plame wrote that "my husband has good relations with both the PM [Prime Minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity."

That means Wilson was also shading the story: "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," he wrote in his 2004 book The Politics of Truth. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip." When asked last week by TIME if he still denies that she was the origin of his involvement in the trip, he avoided answering. But he has maintained all along that Administration officials conducted a "smear job" on him and outed his wife in revenge.

Not so, insisted Rove's surrogates last week when asked to explain why he was talking about a covert operative at all. His warning to Cooper, Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin told TIME, was not meant to encourage Cooper to write about Plame; it was meant to deter him from writing credulously about Wilson or at least from lending weight to charges that Cheney's office had deliberately ignored Wilson's findings. "What he was trying to do was discourage Cooper from printing allegations about the Vice President that were going to be proven false," Luskin says. While it was true that the Administration ultimately had to retract their claims about yellowcake, Wilson was seen as overstating the importance of his mission; the yellowcake charge should not have been in the President's speech because the evidence remained inconclusive. CIA officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Wilson's trip had not resolved the yellowcake question one way or the other. Cheney denied on Meet the Press that he knew of Wilson's mission or had been briefed by him. Furthermore, had Rove intended for Cooper to circulate any information about Wilson's wife, "he certainly would not have extracted a promise that the discussions were super double secret," Luskin notes with a laugh, referring to Cooper's phrase.

What does it matter who put Plame's identity in play? That reporters may have been part of a loop of information, not just receivers of it, has for some time been one of the hypotheses in the case. The Washington Post reported that Libby, who has been interviewed by the grand jury three times, learned Plame's name from a reporter too. NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert spoke with Fitzgerald under oath in August about a call from Libby, who gave Russert clearance to testify about their talk. Russert says he told Fitzgerald that he was not Libby's source.

From legal and political angles, it looks better if Administration officials were leakees, not leakers. If the blame for blowing the cover of a CIA officer can be spread around, so much the better. And it suggests the challenge that Fitzgerald may face in building a case. It is one thing if Rove happened to hear from a reporter that Plame was a CIA officer, casually confirmed that he had already heard that to another reporter (Novak) and incidentally spread the word to a third (Cooper). It's perhaps something else if Administration officials made an effort to gather information on Wilson, discovered that his wife was a CIA officer and carried out a strategy to discredit Wilson that included outing his wife to a number of reporters. It is still another thing to do the second and pretend, under oath, that you had done the first.

How much damage?
For all the speculation about Rove's fate and despite a failed attempt by Senate Democrats to have Rove's security clearance revoked, within the White House there was little sign of panic. "They think Karl is bulletproof," says a former Administration official who is familiar with the issue and the players. "They think, 'We won a second term. We control Congress.' They don't think Karl is in any real jeopardy."

But even if Rove skates past any legal trouble, that still leaves the question of means and ends. Although Democrats deplored what they viewed as an Administration attempt to silence its critics, to the intelligence community what mattered was that in the course of political warfare, a spy had been sacrificed. Plame was one of the rare operatives to become an NOC, that is, a CIA employee who operates under nonofficial cover. Such officers, who may pose as businesspeople or students, have no diplomatic immunity and so are much more vulnerable if caught spying. They often work abroad for U.S. companies that have secret agreements with the CIA to take them in as employees or for front companies the agency sets up. A former CIA station chief tells TIME that it can cost the agency anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million to establish an NOC overseas, depending on how deep and extensive the cover must be.

CIA sources say Plame held highly sensitive jobs during the past two decades. In the late 1990s she was serving as an NOC, working as an analyst with Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a CIA front company that has been shut down. "She was pretty and had brains and ambition and loyalty," says a former clandestine officer who worked with her. "Everything was there." But in 1997 she moved back to Washington. The New York Times has reported that the CIA feared that her cover had been blown to the Russians by double agent Aldrich Ames. Her marriage to a high-profile former diplomat further limited her ability to fly under the radar. She began working at CIA headquarters in Langley, assigned to the directorate of operations, the CIA'S clandestine branch that manages its human spying overseas and is one of the agency's most secretive directorates. "NOCs aren't supposed to come into the building," said Fred Rustmann, a former senior CIA official and a Plame superior. "It doesn't serve cover well. It may serve the moment. They break the rules for expediency. In Valerie's case, she's a bright young woman. She has some experience in nuclear proliferation."

Thus Rove's defenders have claimed that he can hardly be guilty of outing a spy who was effectively outed already. "She was done," says a senior Republican Senate aide when asked whether Plame's career had been damaged by the disclosure of her covert identity. "She'd had her two kids. She'd come back to headquarters. And how do you maintain your cover when your husband is saying, I was sent on a mission by the CIA?"

But while she may no longer have been a clandestine operative, she was still under protected status. A U.S. official told TIME that Plame was indeed considered covert for the purposes of the Intelligence Identities Protection law. And even if the leak was not illegal, intelligence officials argue, it is not defensible. "I'm beyond disgusted," a CIA official said last week. I am especially angry about the b_______ explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there are lots of people in this building who are on that status. It's not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status will end for an agent."

Whatever the damage to Plame, there remains the cost paid by the CIA generally. In the wake of the disclosure, foreign intelligence services were known to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries. Outside of a James Bond movie, spies rarely steal secrets themselves; they recruit foreigners to do it for them. That often means bribing a government official to break his country's laws and pass state secrets to the CIA. "It becomes extremely hard if you're working overseas and recruiting [foreign] agents knowing that some sloth up in the Executive Branch for political reasons can reveal your identity," says Jim Marcinkowski, who served four years in the agency and is now the deputy city attorney for Royal Oak, Michigan "Certainly this kind of information travels around the world very quickly. And it raises the level of fear of coming in contact with the United States for any reason." On the other hand, some critics charge that the agency tends to overstate the value of its undercover operations, whose lapses in recent years have certainly been the subject of much debate.

Naturally that's not how Joe Wilson sees it. Back at the house, he has lit a cigar and is sitting on the back porch, claiming vindication while defending himself against charges that all along he has been a partisan hack with an agenda and not a whistle-blower who ran afoul of the White House. "To have my character and integrity impugned not on facts but on the volume of their voice and blast faxes and blast e-mails is beyond the pale," he says. "All Americans should worry about a government that reacts in such a fashion." Later in the conversation, he offers, unsolicited, two copies of his book, one of which he inscribes to Matt Cooper. Asked how it's doing, he says, "Really well," and glances at the spot on the cover where it says The New York Time Best Seller. "And it's going to do even better in the next three months."

Reported by Timothy J. Burger, Massimo Calabresi, James Carney, Sally B. Donnelly, Viveca Novak and Douglas Waller/ Washington

Copyright © 2005 Time Inc.

Portions of Press Briefing by Scott McClellan

James S. Brady Briefing Room

12:40 P.M. EDT


Q Do Karl Rove and Scooter Libby still have top secret clearance here, access to classified documents?

MR. McCLELLAN: You asked this question last week, and --

Q I did. And I'm asking again.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the President has said what our answer is to these questions. We'll be glad to talk about all these issues once the investigation is complete.

Q Do they have a clearance?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll be glad to talk about all the issues relating to the investigation once it's complete.

Q Why can't you talk about it now?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that question I addressed a couple weeks ago.

Go ahead. Go ahead, Jessica.


Go ahead, Elaine.

Q On the leak investigation, does President Bush feel that it was appropriate for there to be an 11 or 12-hour time gap from the time that Chief of Staff Andy Card was notified that an investigation was underway to the time that staff here at the White House, including him --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has said that -- and the President directed the White House at the beginning of the investigation to cooperate fully with those overseeing the investigation. And that is exactly what we have done, and that's what we did in that context, as well. If you will recall, back on October 1st of 2003, these questions came up and I addressed it at that time. So you might want to go back and look at that discussion during that briefing.

Q But in the spirit of cooperation, and you had indicted on October 1, 2003, that the reason that the Justice Department was asked, is it okay to wait until the morning, and the answer was that it was okay, but in the spirit of cooperation, why did the notification not go out until 11 or 12 hours later?

MR. McCLELLAN: I talked about that in that briefing, and addressed all those questions at that time. And the President has made it clear that we should cooperate fully with the investigation. That's what we have done, that's what we continue to do.


Q Yes, Scott, can you assure us that Andrew Card did not speak to either -- or did not tell the President or Karl Rove or Scooter Libby or anybody else about the Justice Department investigation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, again, those questions came up back in October of 2003 and I addressed them at the time.

Q May I ask one follow-up?

MR. McCLELLAN: You may. Go ahead.

Q I know that none of you are speaking about this because it's an ongoing investigation. Can you explain why Alberto Gonzales would go on TV yesterday and do that, and talk about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what he said was already said from this podium back in October of 2003, and I don't think he got into commenting in any substantive way on the discussion. But the President has said that we will be glad to talk about this once the investigation has come to a conclusion, but not until then. And there have certainly been preferences expressed to the White House that we not get into discussing it while it is ongoing.


Go ahead.

Q Yes, thank you. There has been a lot of speculation concerning the meaning of the underlying statute and the grand jury investigation concerning Mr. Rove. The question is, have the legal counsel to the White House or White House staff reviewed the statute in sufficient specificity to determine whether a violation of that statute would, in effect, constitute treason?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that in terms of decisions regarding the investigation, those are matters for those overseeing the investigation to decide.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.

END 1:17 P.M. EDT

Congress plans to scrutinize Plame-related issues - Yahoo! News

By David Morgan

Congress will conduct a series of hearings on national security and espionage issues raised by the CIA-leak controversy surrounding senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, officials said on Monday.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence plans hearings on potential national security threats posed by leaks, including leaks to the media, and will aim to toughen legislation barring the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

"It's time there's a comprehensive law that will make it easier for the government to prosecute wrongdoers and increase the penalties that hopefully will act as a deterrent," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the panel's Republican chairman.

Media leaks and the covert status of espionage officials have become politically charged issues with the controversy over Valerie Plame, whose identity as a CIA agent was leaked in 2003 after her diplomat husband Joseph Wilson accused the White House of exaggerating intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

A Time magazine reporter said he learned about Plame's identity from Rove, deputy White House chief of staff and chief architect of President Bush's re-election. Time reporter Matthew Cooper also said he discussed Plame and Wilson with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

It can be illegal for a government official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA operative.

Democrats, who have urged Bush to fire Rove or revoke his classified clearance, stepped up political pressure on Republicans on Monday by calling for a formal congressional investigation of the Plame leak.


"The United States Congress has a constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of the executive branch, whether a law has been broken or not," the 26 senators said in a letter.

Speaking earlier at a forum hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, Hoekstra said his committee would begin hearings as early as September that would include testimony from CIA, Pentagon and Justice Department witnesses.

He said he would also hope to invite witnesses representing the news media.

Intelligence officials have long complained that leaks to the media have damaged U.S. spy operations, including efforts to track al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Hoekstra described current laws governing unauthorized disclosure as a limited "patchwork" of statutes. Past attempts to craft more comprehensive measures have ended in failure. But Hoekstra said concerns fostered by bombings in Madrid, London and Egypt have created a more favorable political climate.

"I don't have any legislation yet," Hoekstra said. "That's what we have the hearing process for, to design and determine exactly what legislation might look like."

Meanwhile, Hoekstra's counterpart in the Senate, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts (news, bio, voting record) of Kansas, intends to preside over hearings on the intelligence community's use of covert protections for CIA agents and others involved in secret activities.

The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence could hold hearings on the use of espionage cover soon after the U.S. Congress returns from its August recess, said Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little.

Little said the Senate committee would also review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years.

Bush aide waited to inform staff of CIA leak probe - Yahoo! News

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Sunday that he immediately told White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card -- but delayed telling others -- when the Justice Department launched an investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA operative.

Gonzales, who at the time was White House counsel, told CBS's "Face the Nation" that he waited until the next morning to discuss the issue with President Bush and to formally notify the rest of the White House staff, requiring them to preserve any materials connected to the investigation.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record) of Delaware said the approximately 12-hour delay in notification "raises a lot of questions" about whether some White House officials could have received an early warning from Card.

"The real question now is, who did the chief of staff speak to? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call (Bush political adviser) Karl Rove? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call anybody else?" Biden said.

Democrats have urged Bush to fire Rove or revoke his access to classified information after a reporter said he was a source about the identity of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame, in 2003. The leak came after Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, accused the White House of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

It is against the law in some cases to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA officer.

A New York Times columnist reported on Sunday that Gonzales was notified about the investigation on the night of Sept. 29, 2003, but waited 12 hours before telling the White House staff about the inquiry.

Asked about the report on CBS, Gonzales said his office was notified about the investigation at about 8:00 p.m. and that he had his staff "go back to the Department of Justice lawyers and ask them, 'Do you want us to notify the staff now, immediately, or would it be OK to notify the staff early in the morning?"'

"And we were advised, go ahead and notify the staff early in the morning, that would be OK," Gonzales said. "Most of the staff had gone home. No one knew about the investigation."

But Gonzales said he did tell one person at the White House -- Card.

Gonzales said he told the president first thing the next morning, "and shortly thereafter, there was notification sent out to all the members of the White House staff."

Biden said: "I don't doubt the attorney general's sincerity. But it does seem to me it wasn't the soundest of judgments."

Bush Aide Learned Early of Leaks Probe

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 25, 2005; A02

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday that he spoke with White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. immediately after learning that the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. But Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, waited 12 hours before officially notifying the rest of the staff of the inquiry.

Many details of the investigation led by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald are unknown. Sources close to the case have said Fitzgerald is looking into possible conflicts between what President Bush's senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential staff chief I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury, and the accounts of reporters who spoke with the two men.

Gonzales said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" that he is among the group of top current and former Bush administration officials who have testified to the grand jury about the unmasking of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative. Gonzales, who has recused himself from the case, would not discuss details of his testimony but said he learned about Plame's work from newspaper accounts.

In the New York Times yesterday, columnist Frank Rich cited news reports from 2003 that when Gonzales was notified about the investigation on the evening of Monday, Sept. 29, 2003, he waited 12 hours before telling the White House staff about the inquiry. Official notification to staff is meant to quickly alert anyone who may have pertinent records to make sure they are preserved and safeguarded.

Asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about the column, Gonzales said the Justice Department had informed his office around 8 p.m. and that White House lawyers said he could wait until the next morning before notifying the staff. He did not say why he called Card.

"I specifically had our lawyers go back to the Department of Justice lawyers and ask them, 'Do you want us to notify the staff now, immediately, or would it be okay to notify the staff early in the morning?' And we were advised, go ahead and notify the staff early in the morning, that would be okay." He said most of the staff had left by the time the Justice Department called and that "no one knew about the investigation."

But he acknowledged telling one person: "the chief of staff. And immediately the next morning, I told the president. And shortly thereafter, there was notification sent out to all the members of the White House staff," Gonzales said.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), appearing on the same program, questioned why Gonzales would not have notified the staff immediately by e-mail and suggested that Fitzgerald pursue whether Card may have given anyone in the White House advance notice of the criminal investigation.

"The real question now is, who did the chief of staff speak to? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call Karl Rove? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call anybody else?" Biden asked.

The case centers on the White House response in the days after July 6, 2003, when former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on Iraq's weapons arsenal to justify war. In an op-ed piece, Wilson wrote that the government sent him to Niger to investigate assertions that Iraq had tried to acquire materials there for a nuclear weapon and that he had reported back, before the war, that no proof had been found to support the allegations.

Eight days after Wilson's article appeared, Robert D. Novak published a syndicated column suggesting that the administration did not take Wilson's findings seriously and noting that Wilson's wife -- Plame -- was a CIA operative who had suggested him for the trip.

After accusations that someone in the administration had jeopardized an operative's cover in political retaliation, the Justice Department appointed Fitzgerald in December 2003 to investigate.

Asked on CBS why he did not investigate the leak when it first became public, Gonzales said: "This is the kind of issue that I felt that we should wait and see whether or not there would be some kind of criminal investigation. And of course, there was."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company