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

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Raw Story | Senator: Don't grant immunity to witnesses over CIA leak

The following letter was issued by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to the Republican chairmen of the respective intelligence committees in the House and Senate regarding hearings they plan to hold on the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, acquired by RAW STORY.

Dear Chairman Roberts and Chairman Hoekstra:

It is my understanding that both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees intend to conduct hearings on our nation’s intelligence agencies and the use of covert agents. While I applaud your Committee’s efforts to investigate the Plame affair, I urge you to not provide an opportunity for any wrongdoers to escape culpability for criminal actions that may have put our national security at risk.

As you know, Congress has the power to grant immunity to witnesses who appear before its committees. However we must be mindful of the warning delivered by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh at the end of his seven-year investigation into the Iran-Contra affair. His investigation was hampered, and the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter overturned on appeal, due to immunity granted by Congress in exchange for testimony before Iran-contra committees. Walsh advised that Congress should think carefully before granting immunity, and be cognizant that “if it wants to compel testimony by granting immunity, it has to realize that the odds are very strong that it’s going to kill any resulting criminal prosecution.”

The leaked identity of a covert officer of the United States is a serious matter and should be fully investigated. Those responsible for the leak should be prosecuted for their involvement. Although Congress can and should independently investigate this leak and any efforts to cover-up the leak in the White House, such an investigation should not serve to relieve any White House official of culpability for criminal wrongdoing.



2 Aides to Rove Testify in C.I.A. Leak Inquiry

By David Johnston / New York Times
WASHINGTON - Two aides to Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, testified last Friday before a federal grand jury investigating whether government officials illegally disclosed the identity of an undercover C.I.A. operative, according to a person who has been officially briefed on the case.
The aides, Susan B. Ralston and Israel Hernandez, were asked about grand jury testimony given on July 13 by Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine, the person who was briefed said. Mr. Cooper has said that he testified about a July 11, 2003, conversation with Mr. Rove in which the C.I.A. officer was discussed.
The aides' grand jury appearances were first reported by ABC News and provided the first sign that the prosecutor in the case was interested in following up on Mr. Cooper's testimony with more questions for the White House about Mr. Rove. A person sympathetic to Mr. Rove said that the questions seemed typical of those posed by a prosecutor wrapping up the loose ends of an inquiry.
That person and the one who has been briefed spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the prosecutor has warned people not to discuss the case.
At one point, the aides were asked why Mr. Cooper's call to Mr. Rove was not entered in Mr. Rove's office telephone logs. There was no record of the call, the person who has been briefed said, because Mr. Cooper did not call Mr. Rove directly, but was transferred to his office from a White House switchboard.
The aides have worked closely with Mr. Rove, screening his calls and coordinating his activities with other White House officials. Mr. Hernandez had been an aide to President Bush since his successful campaign for governor of Texas in 1994, and Ms. Ralston is known as one of Mr. Rove's most trusted associates.
Ms. Ralston still works with Mr. Rove, while Mr. Hernandez has moved to the Commerce Department. Telephone calls to their offices on Tuesday were not returned.
The telephone conversation between Mr. Rove and Mr. Cooper is one of two conversations in a one-week period in July 2003 that the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has focused on. The second was between Mr. Rove and Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist, as Mr. Novak was preparing a column in which he named the C.I.A. officer.
Mr. Fitzgerald has focused on whether in the identification of the officer, Valerie Wilson, there was a deliberate effort to retaliate against her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, for his criticism of the Bush administration's policy on Iraq. In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, Mr. Wilson, a former diplomat, wrote that when he traveled to Niger in 2002 as a government emissary, he found little evidence to support a claim made by Mr. Bush a year later that Iraq had tried to acquire nuclear fuel there.
On July 14, 2003, Mr. Novak wrote that Mr. Wilson had been sent to Africa by his wife, who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Fitzgerald is examining whether anyone in the government violated a law making it a crime to disclose the name of a covert officer deliberately.
In an article in Time last month about his grand jury appearance, Mr. Cooper wrote that he had telephoned the White House and been transferred to Mr. Rove's office.
"I believe a woman answered the phone and said words to the effect that Rove wasn't there," Mr. Cooper wrote, "or was busy before going on vacation. But then I recall she said something like 'hang on,' and I was transferred to him."
Mr. Cooper wrote that Mr. Rove told him that Ms. Wilson had worked at the C.I.A. and had been responsible for sending her husband to Africa. But Mr. Cooper added that Mr. Rove did not identify Ms. Wilson by name or suggest that he knew of her status as a covert officer.

Top Rove Aide Reportedly Testified in Leak Case

By Richard B. Schmitt
Times Staff Writer

August 3, 2005

WASHINGTON — A top assistant to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove appeared last week before the federal grand jury investigating possible criminal wrongdoing by the Bush administration in the exposing of a CIA operative, a person familiar with the case said Tuesday.

The interest in Susan Ralston, Rove's longtime executive assistant, was unclear. But it comes as special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has been focusing on differences in witness statements made to federal agents and the grand jury investigating who revealed the identity of Valerie Plame.

Ralston's appearance Friday followed grand jury testimony last month by Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who recounted a conversation he had had with Rove in July 2003 in which Rove alluded to Plame without mentioning her by name. Cooper and columnist Robert Novak subsequently wrote stories identifying Plame after talking with administration officials.

It can be a violation of federal law to disclose the name of a covert CIA agent. Some people close to the case believe that Fitzgerald has begun focusing on whether other laws may have been broken, such as perjury, obstruction of justice or making "misstatements" to investigators.

Cooper's version of his conversation with Rove differed somewhat from the version that Rove offered investigators. Some people close to the case said that Fitzgerald was apparently seeking to resolve the differences.

But a person familiar with Cooper's testimony said that Ralston's name did not come up during the reporter's grand jury appearance. That indicates that Fitzgerald may be interested in her testimony for other reasons.

Ralston could not be reached for comment.

The prosecutor said earlier in court papers that his investigation was essentially complete as of October except for the testimony of Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Miller was jailed four weeks ago for refusing to cooperate, and remains incarcerated.

ABC News, which first disclosed Ralston's grand jury appearance, also reported that former Rove aide Israel "Izzy" Hernandez appeared before the grand jury Friday.

Hernandez is a longtime Bush aide who once worked as a travel assistant for him during Bush's run for governor of Texas in 1994. More recently, he was a deputy to Rove until being nominated this year to be an assistant secretary of Commerce.

A Commerce Department spokeswoman declined comment.

Fitzgerald, who has led the probe since December 2003, has not indicated when he intends to complete the investigation. The grand jury is set to expire in October, although it could be renewed.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, declined comment about Ralston's grand jury appearance. But he has said repeatedly that Rove has been assured he is not a target of the investigation, and that investigators have never challenged the veracity of any statements Rove has made to them over the course of the probe.

On Monday, President Bush said he had "complete confidence" in Rove, in his strongest defense yet of his longtime aide.