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

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Democrats press Rice on U.N. envoy nominee Bolton - Yahoo! News

Senate Democrats urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday to say whether U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton was questioned in the investigation of the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are trying to determine if Bolton answered a routine questionnaire truthfully when he indicated he had not been interviewed or asked to supply information for a recent grand jury investigation.

California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record) said Bolton, a blunt-spoken conservative who has drawn fire for his abrasive style, should not be sent to the U.N. post until lawmakers have a definite answer on the veracity of his response.

Citing reports President Bush may bypass the Senate and appoint Bolton while Congress takes its upcoming summer recess, Boxer said, "I urge in the strongest possible way" the Senate be allowed to continue work on the nomination.

The Senate is expected to start its monthlong recess this weekend. Under a recess appointment, Bolton could serve only until January 2007, when the next Congress convenes.

Democrats were responding to a report MSNBC aired last Thursday that Bolton testified before the federal grand jury investigating who leaked the identity of Plame.

The leak came after Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, accused the White House of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

Boxer, in a conference call with reporters, said the committee's staff tried to get an answer on Bolton from the State Department on Monday.

She said Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's senior Democrat, "kicked it up a notch" and wrote Rice on Wednesday.

On Monday, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Bolton had neither testified nor been asked to do so before the grand jury investigating the leak.

If Bolton was questioned in the Plame investigation after he signed the committee affidavit in March, Boxer said he or the administration should state that.

Bolton's nomination has been held up by accusations he tried to manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence analysts to support his hawkish views in his post as the top U.S. diplomat for arms control.

In procedural votes in May and June, Democrats denied Republicans the 60 votes needed from the 100-member chamber to close debate on Bolton and move to a confirmation vote, which would require a simple majority.

Rice Asked if Bolton Testified in Leak Case - Yahoo! News

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

A Democratic opponent of John Bolton asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday whether the nominee for U.N. ambassador had testified to a grand jury about the leak of CIA operative's identity.

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee say they want to determine whether Bolton was truthful when he wrote on a questionnaire for his confirmation hearing that he has not been interviewed in any recent investigations.

In a letter to Rice, Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., referenced an MSNBC report from July 21 that Bolton was among State Department undersecretaries who "gave testimony" about a classified memo that has become an important piece of evidence in the leak investigation.

Biden asked Rice to tell the committee "whether Mr. Bolton did, in fact, appear before the grand jury, or whether he has been interviewed or otherwise asked to provide information by the special prosecutor or his staff in connection with this matter."

Several Bush administration officials have been interviewed by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in his quest to determine who leaked the covert identity of Valerie Plame to reporters and whether any laws were broken.

Plame is the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of President Bush's Iraq policy.

A message left with the State Department was not immediately returned on Wednesday.

California Rep. Jane Harman (news, bio, voting record), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has asked the State Department for two different versions of the memo from its bureau of intelligence and research that discussed Plame, a congressional aide said. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because of the investigation's sensitivity.

The memo could have been the way someone in the White House learned — and then leaked — the information that Plame worked for the CIA and played a role in sending Wilson to Africa to explore whether Iraq was interested in obtaining uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons.

Part of the questionnaire Bolton filled out in March asked him whether he was "interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative (including an inspector general), congressional or grand jury investigation within the past five years."

"He indicated in his form that he had not," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif.

She said it is unclear whether Bolton lied on his questionnaire because senators do not know if he testified before or after he signed the document — or at all.

The latest Democratic request to the administration for information about Bolton comes just two days before Congress is scheduled to leave Washington for a monthlong break.

With the Senate out of session, Bush could sidestep Congress and install Bolton in the U.N. post on a temporary basis.

Democrats have blocked Bolton's nomination for months. They have demanded that the administration turn over certain information about Bolton before they allow his nomination to proceed.

Republicans have twice attempted — and failed — to break the Democratic filibuster. There has been no sign of a breakthrough since the second attempt in June.

The White House has ruled out withdrawing Bolton's name.

The Raw Story | Karen Hughes refused to answer questions about Plame outing during confirmation hearing

Senior Bush adviser Karen Hughes, headed to confirmation in the full Senate for the State Department's top public relations post, provided a terse two sentence answer to questions submitted by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) about her role and knowledge about the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, RAW STORY has learned.

Kerry's line of questioning focused on whether Hughes knew Wilson was a covert operative, and whether she had ever spoken with Bush adviser Karl Rove about the agent.

Hughes response was curt: "Because of my ongoing contact with the White House, I was interviewed as part of that investigation and was happy to cooperate, as I noted in my Senate Foreign Relations Committee questionnaire. As you know, these questions relate to an ongoing criminal investigation. I believe that I should honor the prosecutor's request not to discuss this matter until he has completed his investigation."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved Hughes' nomination Tuesday to be Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate in August.

And Now, Back to Karl Rove… -- 07/27/2005

By Susan Jones Senior Editor
July 27, 2005

( - Before news events overtook them, Democrats were on a roll about Karl Rove, the Bush adviser they've targeted for job termination -- even before a federal grand jury concludes its investigation into who leaked the name of a covert CIA agent to the press.

On Tuesday, various Democrats returned to the subject.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it has compiled a timeline of events involving the leak -- "to set the record straight in a way that no amount of Republican spin can overcome."

And Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card asking for an explanation of the so called "12 hour gap." That refers to the length of time it took then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to inform White House staffers that the federal investigation was about to begin -- and that all documents pertaining to the leak of Valerie Plame's name should be retained.

The night he learned about the impending investigation, Gonzales told only Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Gonzales says he waited until morning to let other White House officials know, since most of them had gone home.

Democrats are suggesting that Gonzales' 12-hour delay in informing Bush administration officials was calculated to give them time to destroy documents.

"The time has come for the White House to shed some light on what happened at the very beginning of the [federal] investigation," Schumer said on Tuesday. "At every recent twist and turn in this investigation there seems to be another evasion from the White House.

"Andy Card ought to simply tell the American people whether or not he gave Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, or anyone else advance warning about the document request from the Department of Justice."

Schumer's letter asks Card to "immediately disclose whether, at any time between when you were informed that evening and when the official document request was communicated to all White House staff, you informed Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, or anyone else that an official order to preserve any possible evidence related to the investigation was coming."

For its part, the DCCC is thanking its supporters for signing a petition that "demands accountability" from the White House.

"Nearly 20,000 of you have signed our petition insisting that President Bush keep his word and fire those involved in the betrayal of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. With each passing day, the implications and evidence mount, and the White House wall of denial crumbles," the message said.

The DCCC's timeline begins in February 2002, with Ambassador Joe Wilson's trip to Niger. It ends on Oct. 28, 2005 -- the day the federal grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's name is scheduled to expire.

In between, the timeline details how the White House "circled the wagons"; how Plame was outed in the press; how the investigation began and the "floodgates" opened; and how the Bush administration has refused to comment on the ongoing investigation.

"The Republicans are digging in for potentially months of disinformation, knowing that those at the heart of their party are in a hopelessly indefensible position," the DCCC message said.

It notes that no Democrat has had a hand in the federal investigation, something that makes the entire process suspect in Democrats' eyes; and it mentions that "speculation about perjury and conspiracy charges" is growing every day.

President Bush has urged everyone to avoid speculation and wait for the facts.

The DCCC message tells Democrats that "Karl Rove and other senior White House officials put an intelligence officer and those in contact with her at risk for partisan political reasons; they must be held accountable -- and must be removed from power."

"Read the timeline, forward this email on, and keep it as a resource so you can go straight back to the facts during the next Republican propaganda blitz.

"And stay tuned, we'll have much more to come." The DCCC warns Democrats that Republicans will try to "distract" them -- "but we here at the DCCC will make sure they are held accountable -- and that you have the facts."

There's no word when the federal grand jury will release the facts of the case it has been investigating for months.

Ex-White House Aide on Periphery of Leak Inquiry - New York Times

POUND RIDGE, N.Y., July 25 - From the road, it is barely possible to see the home where Ari Fleischer lives. Tucked away behind a secured fence and a thicket of shrubbery, Mr. Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, is where he wants to be these days: nearly invisible.

For the two years since he left the White House - on the very day in July 2003 that Robert D. Novak printed the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative in his syndicated newspaper column - Mr. Fleischer has been caught up in the investigation of who supplied that information to the columnist and whether it was a crime. The prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, called Mr. Fleischer to appear before the grand jury that is investigating the leak.

One person familiar with Mr. Fleischer's testimony said he told the grand jury that he was not Mr. Novak's source. And Mr. Fleischer, who was never shy about championing his Republican bosses, seems not to fit Mr. Novak's description, in a subsequent column, of his primary source as "no partisan gunslinger."

But Mr. Fleischer was in the middle of the developments that surrounded the White House's response to the criticism leveled by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat, who on July 6, 2003, publicly said the administration had "twisted" intelligence about the nuclear ambitions of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

In the week that followed Mr. Wilson's assertions in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times, Mr. Fleischer played a central role as the White House acknowledged that six months earlier, President Bush should not have cited intelligence about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa in his State of the Union address.

Mr. Wilson, who had traveled to the African nation of Niger in 2002 at the request of the C.I.A. to look into the uranium reports, had challenged Mr. Bush's statement.

A White House telephone log shows that Mr. Fleischer received a call from Mr. Novak on July 7, 2003, but a person familiar with Mr. Fleischer's testimony said he told prosecutors he never returned the call. Mr. Fleischer was aboard Air Force One with Mr. Bush and several other senior administration officials as they traveled across Africa that week.

And while a classified State Department memorandum that identified Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, as a C.I.A. operative, was also on board, Mr. Fleischer has told the grand jury that he never saw the document, according to the person familiar with his testimony.

["I'm cooperating with the investigators, and refer all questions to them," Mr. Fleischer said on Tuesday, after turning away a reporter at his house on Monday.]

The people who discussed the testimony of Mr. Fleischer and other witnesses asked not to be named because Mr. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, has asked anyone involved in the case not to talk about it. At least one person who provided an account of Mr. Fleischer's role did so in the belief that it would remove suspicion from Mr. Fleischer.

As the investigation has progressed, according to people who have been officially briefed on the inquiry, investigators have lessened their interest in Mr. Fleischer's activities and those of other top White House press aides at the time as more senior administration figures have attracted greater attention. Those figures include Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, and I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

With Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, in jail for refusing to divulge her source for the same information about Ms. Wilson, and the grand jury set to expire in October, the outcome of the investigation remains unclear.

[In an interview on the CNN program "Inside Politics" on Tuesday, Mr. Novak said he could not discuss any role he had had in the case. He added, "I can't tell anything I ever talked to Karl Rove about because I don't think I ever talked to him about any subject, even the time of day, on the record."]

Mr. Fleischer, as White House spokesman, delivered the administration's pronouncements about the Iraq war in the weeks after the invasion began in March 2003. But he was never part of Mr. Bush's inner circle, and he was not the only member of the Bush communications team trying to counter Mr. Wilson's critique.

Dan Bartlett, the most senior communications strategist in the White House, has also told investigators that he did not know who Ms. Wilson was, according to a person who has been briefed on the case.

Few if any reporters who traveled with Mr. Fleischer, Mr. Bartlett and the White House entourage that week have been called to testify before the grand jury. A background briefing during the trip in which Mr. Bartlett spoke with reporters and urged them to look into the C.I.A.'s role in sending Mr. Wilson to Niger has not drawn substantial interest from prosecutors recently.

One source familiar with the case said Mr. Fitzgerald knew about the briefing but was apparently not pursuing it as a significant lead.

A different person, who has been briefed on the investigation, said, "If Bartlett spoke to the issue, it was to suggest to reporters to inquire at the C.I.A. because it was the C.I.A. that had control of the issue."

That individual added that Mr. Bartlett did not see the classified State Department memorandum.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bartlett repeated that administration officials "are fully cooperating with the investigators in this process, at the direction of the president."

When he left the White House on July 14, 2003, Mr. Fleischer was newly married and ready to return to the small, affluent town of Pound Ridge in Westchester County, where he was raised. He has largely kept a low profile, speaking to groups around the country but staying off the television talk-show circuit.

Earlier this year, Mr. Fleischer's memoir, "Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House," was published. In it, he made no mention of the leak but took note of the story roiling the White House the day he left.

"A controversy raged over the accuracy of a claim the president had made in his State of the Union address concerning Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium from Africa," he wrote. "For more than 45 minutes, the press and I enjoyed our last clash."

David Johnston contributed reporting from Washington for this article.

Prosecutor In CIA Leak Case Casting A Wide Net

White House Effort To Discredit Critic Examined in Detail

By Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 27, 2005; A01

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.

In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.

Most of the questioning of CIA and State Department officials took place in 2004, the sources said.

It remains unclear whether Fitzgerald uncovered any wrongdoing in this or any other portion of his nearly 18-month investigation. All that is known at this point are the names of some people he has interviewed, what questions he has asked and whom he has focused on.

Fitzgerald began his probe in December 2003 to determine whether any government official knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a CIA employee to the media. Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, has said his wife's career was ruined in retaliation for his public criticism of Bush. In a 2002 trip to Niger at the request of the CIA, Wilson found no evidence to support allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium from that African country and reported back to the agency in February 2002. But nearly a year later, Bush asserted in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa, attributing it to British, not U.S., intelligence.

Fitzgerald has said in court that he had completed most of his investigation at a time when he was pressing for New York Times reporter Judith Miller to testify about any conversations she had with a specific administration official about Plame during the week before Plame's identity was revealed.

Miller, who never wrote a story about the matter, is in jail for refusing to comply with a court order to testify. Court records show Fitzgerald is seeking information about communications she had with the Bush official between July 6 and July 13, 2003, when the White House was attempting to discredit Wilson and his allegations.

Fitzgerald appears to believe that Miller's conversations may help him get to the bottom of the leak and the damage-control campaign undertaken by senior Bush officials that week.

Using background conversations with at least three journalists and other means, Bush officials attacked Wilson's credibility. They said that his 2002 trip to Niger was a boondoggle arranged by his wife, but CIA officials say that is incorrect. One reason for the confusion about Plame's role is that she had arranged a trip for him to Niger three years earlier on an unrelated matter, CIA officials told The Washington Post.

Miller's role remains one of many mysteries in the leak probe. It is unclear whom, if anyone, she spoke to about Plame, and why she emerged as a central figure in the probe despite never having written a story about the case. Also murky is the role of Novak, who first publicly identified Plame in a syndicated column published July 14, 2003.

Lawyers have confirmed that Novak discussed Plame with White House senior adviser Karl Rove four or more days before the column identifying her ran. But the identity of another "administration" source cited in the column is still unknown. Rove's attorney has said Rove did not identify Plame to Novak.

In a strange twist in the investigation, the grand jury -- acting on a tip from Wilson -- has questioned a person who approached Novak on Pennsylvania Avenue on July 8, 2003, six days before his column appeared in The Post and other publications, Wilson said in an interview. The person, whom Wilson declined to identify to The Post, asked Novak about the "yellow cake" uranium matter and then about Wilson, Wilson said. He first revealed that conversation in a book he wrote last year. In the book, he said that he tried to reach Novak on July 8, and that they finally connected on July 10. In that conversation, Wilson said that he did not confirm his wife worked for the CIA but that Novak told him he had obtained the information from a "CIA source."

Novak told the person that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA as a specialist in weapons of mass destruction and had arranged her husband's trip to Niger, Wilson said. Unknown to Novak, the person was a friend of Wilson and reported the conversation to him, Wilson said.

Novak and his attorney, James Hamilton, have declined to discuss the investigation, as has Fitzgerald.

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

In a column published Oct. 1, 2003, Novak wrote that the CIA official he spoke to "asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause 'difficulties' if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name."

Harlow was also involved in the larger internal administration battle over who would be held responsible for Bush using the disputed charge about the Iraq-Niger connection as part of the war argument. Based on the questions they have been asked, people involved in the case believe that Fitzgerald looked into this bureaucratic fight because the effort to discredit Wilson was part of the larger campaign to distance Bush from the Niger controversy.

Wilson unleashed an attack on Bush's claim on July 6, 2003, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," in an interview in The Post and writing his own op-ed article in the New York Times, in which he accused the president of "twisting" intelligence.

Behind the scenes, the White House responded with twin attacks: one on Wilson and the other on the CIA, which it wanted to take the blame for allowing the 16 words to remain in Bush's speech. As part of this effort, then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley spoke with Tenet during the week about clearing up CIA responsibility for the 16 words, even though both knew the agency did not think Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Tenet was interviewed by prosecutors, but it is not clear whether he appeared before the grand jury, a former CIA official said.

On July 9, Tenet and top aides began to draft a statement over two days that ultimately said it was "a mistake" for the CIA to have permitted the 16 words about uranium to remain in Bush's speech. He said the information "did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

A former senior CIA official said yesterday that Tenet's statement was drafted within the agency and was shown only to Hadley on July 10 to get White House input. Only a few minor changes were accepted before it was released on July 11, this former official said. He took issue with a New York Times report last week that said Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had a role in Tenet's statement.

The prosecutors have talked to State Department officials to determine what role a classified memo including two sentences about Plame's role in Wilson's Niger trip played in the damage-control campaign.

People familiar with this part of the probe provided new details about the memo, including that it was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage who requested it the day Wilson went public and asked that a copy be sent to then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to take with him on a trip to Africa the next day. Bush and several top aides were on that trip. Carl W. Ford Jr., who was director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the time and who supervised the original production of the memo, has appeared before the grand jury, a former State Department official said.

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