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

Friday, November 04, 2005 House Democrats Question Rove's Security Clearance

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Four senior House Democrats sent a letter to the White House to ask if presidential aide Karl Rove is still eligible for a security clearance.

Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, has been informed by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald that he is in serious legal jeopardy. Fitzgerald has been investigating who revealed the name of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame to reporters in July 2003 after her husband publicly criticized the Iraq war.

Democratic Representatives John Dingell of Michigan, David Obey of Wisconsin, John Murtha of Pennsylvania and Ike Skelton of Missouri today wrote to Mark Frownfelter, associate director of the White House's Security Division, saying the Plame investigation ``raised questions about the maintenance of a security clearance by Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.''

The Democrats based their question on two clauses in the guidelines for security clearance for the executive office. One of the clauses bars people who have exhibited conduct ``involving questionable judgment, untrustworthiness, unreliability, lack of candor, or unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations.''

The second clause states that any ``allegations or admissions of criminal conduct, regardless of whether the person was formally charged'' could be grounds for an employee to loose security clearance.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy declined to comment on the letter.

Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was charged Oct. 28 with five counts in connection with the case, including perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby, who stepped down last month, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment yesterday.

Niger Trip

Plame, 42, was a covert CIA operative whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was dispatched by the agency in 2002 to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking uranium ``yellowcake'' for a nuclear program. Plame suggested Wilson for the trip because of his contacts with African leaders and past experience on the continent, according to government documents.

Wilson said he told the CIA he didn't find the reports credible. After Bush cited Iraqi attempts to gain nuclear materials in Africa in his 2003 State of the Union speech, and the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of that year, Wilson became increasingly critical of administration policy.

Bush Sidesteps Questions About CIA Leak - Yahoo! News

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

President Bush batted away questions about the CIA leak investigation Friday, unable at an Americas summit thousands of miles from Washington to escape the controversy that has ensnared a top White House official and weakened his own popularity.

Taking questions for the first time since the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Bush declined to answer calls from Democrats and some Republicans that he apologize for any administration official's involvement in the case.

Bush also wouldn't say if staff changes were in the works. He sidestepped a question about whether Karl Rove, his top political adviser who remains under investigation in the CIA leak case, should stay on the job. And the president wouldn't comment on whether Rove told him the truth about his role in the events that led up the investigation.

"You're trying to get me to comment on the investigation, which I'm not going to do," Bush told a small group of reporters after meeting with Latin American leaders on the sidelines of the 34-nation Summit of the Americas. "And I hope you understand that. It's a serious investigation, and it's an important investigation. But it's not yet over."

The questions about the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame shadowed Bush as he attended the two-day summit here which ends Saturday. Bush goes on to stops in Brazil and Panama.

Back in Washington, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has called on Bush to hold a prime-time news conference to answer lingering questions.

Libby's indictment has enabled Democrats to raise anew questions about the Bush administration's primary justification for invading Iraq, the assertion — later proven wrong — that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats have called on Bush to apologize for the White House misleading the public on the CIA leak case. Privately, some Republicans have urged the same.

In a letter to the White House, four Democratic congressmen also questioned Rove's suitability to hold a security clearance. Federal guidelines say allegations or admissions of criminal conduct, regardless of whether a person is formally charged, may disqualify a person from holding a security clearance.

In June 2004, Bush said he stood by his previous pledge to "fire anybody" in his administration shown to have leaked Plame's name. His press secretary, after checking with Libby and Rove, assured the public that neither man had anything to do with the leak.

It turns out both were involved, though Rove has not been charged and neither man has been accused of breaking the law against revealing the identity of an undercover agent.

Libby was charged with lying to investigators and the grand jury about leaking the CIA status of Plame, who was a covert officer. Plame's CIA status was exposed after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of twisting intelligence before the war to exaggerate the Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is said to be still considering whether Rove illegally misled investigators.

The case has further damaged Bush's standing in the polls. A new AP-Ipsos poll found Bush's approval rating was at 37 percent, compared with 39 percent a month ago. A Washington Post-ABC News poll also found six in 10 Americans say Rove should resign.

Bush lamented being repeatedly asked in recent weeks about poll numbers that are the lowest of his presidency. To virtually every question on the leak case, he responded by pivoting to the importance of focusing instead on his agenda.

"I understand there is a preoccupation by the polls and by some," Bush said. "The way you earn credibility with the American people is to declare an agenda that everybody can understand, an agenda that relates to their lives, and get the job done."

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, is seeking to capitalize on Bush's troubles to help elect members of their party to Congress in 2006. A fund-raising letter sent Friday by Democrat Nancy Pelosi alleged that "the Republicans have run this country under the mantle of profit, partisanship, and power for long enough."

The only question in the 12-minute exchange with reporters that Bush directly answered was one about how he would greet Hugo Chavez, the outspoken, leftist leader of Venezuela who is using the summit as a stage to needle Bush and bolster his own standing among Latin American nations. Bush promised to "of course, be polite."

Remember the cause of the CIA leak - Yahoo! News

By Daniel Schorr

The fascination with the subject of which official knew what about Valerie Plame and how they peddled the information should not distract us from contemplating the great con game that the administration played with the American people on the road to war in Iraq.

Clearly the principals chose to assert, whether true or not, that only an invasion would spare America from the imminent danger of Iraqi nuclear and/or biological weapons. From early on, they bought and retailed a dubious bill of goods.

Let's go back to October 2002, when Vice President Dick Cheney received an Italian intelligence report about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium in the African country of Niger. The report came to the CIA from a shady Italian businessman who produced a forged document, apparently written on stolen stationery from the Nigerian Embassy in Rome. The CIA doubted the authenticity of that document; the White House seemed more willing to credit it.

You can understand, then, how furious the White House Iraq Group must have been when Ambassador Joseph Wilson, sent to Niger to gather support for the story of Iraq's effort to buy uranium, instead returned with word that there was no evidence to support that supposition and then went public with his conclusion.

The Pentagon had one other source, equally dubious, on weapons of mass destruction. That was the smooth-talking Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi, who offered a lot of inside information, including word from professed Iraqi scientists. Mr. Chalabi had not only a product, but a market, a friendly relationship with Judith Miller of The New York Times. She wrote a series of stories about Iraqi weapons that her paper ultimately had to disown and apologize for.

But the Bush administration continued to insert alleged Iraqi weapons programs into speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, culminating in a presentation to the United Nations by Secretary of State Colin Powell that Mr. Powell now bitterly regrets.

So let's not get too bogged down in details of the coverup and the leak. More important is what was being covered up - the sometimes frantic effort to justify a war that didn't seem to have much justification.

• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

Prosecutor Narrows Focus on Rove Role in C.I.A. Leak - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 - The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case has narrowed his investigation of Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, to whether he tried to conceal from the grand jury a conversation with a Time magazine reporter in the week before an intelligence officer's identity was made public more than two years ago, lawyers in the case said Thursday.

The special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has centered on what are believed to be his final inquiries in the matter as to whether Mr. Rove was fully forthcoming about the belated discovery of an internal e-mail message that confirmed his conversation with the Time reporter, Matthew Cooper, to whom Mr. Rove had mentioned the C.I.A. officer.

Mr. Fitzgerald no longer seems to be actively examining some of the more incendiary questions involving Mr. Rove. At one point, he explored whether Mr. Rove misrepresented his role in the leak case to President Bush - an issue that led to discussions between Mr. Fitzgerald and James E. Sharp, a lawyer for Mr. Bush, an associate of Mr. Rove said.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, declined to discuss his client's legal status, but referred to a statement issued last week in which he expressed confidence that Mr. Fitzgerald would conclude that Mr. Rove had done nothing wrong.

Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to discuss Mr. Rove's legal status. If nothing else, the uncertainty that continues to surround Mr. Rove's legal case has led to intense speculation about his standing within the White House. People with close ties to Mr. Bush and Republicans who work with officials in the top ranks of the White House staff said there had been no discussion about Mr. Rove stepping down if he is not indicted. They said that any serious consideration of how Mr. Rove should address his role in the case had been put off until after Mr. Fitzgerald completes his inquiry into Mr. Rove.

They were responding to an article on Thursday in The Washington Post, which reported that top White House aides were discussing Mr. Rove's future and that some of them doubted that Mr. Bush could put the leak case behind him as long as Mr. Rove remained in the administration.

Democratic leaders again on Thursday called for Mr. Rove's resignation, citing Mr. Bush's pledge to demand the highest ethical standards from his administration. And it came on top of public expressions of concern from a few Republicans outside the White House that Mr. Rove's involvement in the matter reflected badly on the president. The investigation and the indictment of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, appear to have taken a continued toll on Mr. Bush's political standing. A CBS New poll released on Thursday put his job approval rating at 35 percent, the lowest of his presidency in that survey. Mr. Rove did not accompany Mr. Bush to South America on Thursday morning.

The leak case, which resulted last week in a five-count felony indictment against Mr. Libby, moved into formal court stages on Thursday when Mr. Libby was arraigned.

At the heart of the remaining investigation into Mr. Rove are the circumstances surrounding a July 11, 2003, telephone conversation between Mr. Rove and Mr. Cooper, who turned the interview to questions about a 2002 trip to Africa by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, who was sent by the C.I.A. to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to be buy uranium ore from Niger.

In his testimony to the grand jury in February 2004, Mr. Rove did not disclose the conversation with Mr. Cooper, saying later that he did not recall it among the hundreds of calls he received on a daily basis. But there was a record of the call. Mr. Rove had sent an e-mail message to Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, which confirmed the conversation.

One lawyer with a client in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald could be skeptical of Mr. Rove's account because the message was not discovered until the fall of 2004. It was at about the same time that Mr. Fitzgerald had begun to compel reporters to cooperate with his inquiry, among them Mr. Cooper. Associates of Mr. Rove said the e-mail message was not incriminating and was turned over immediately after it was found at the White House. They said Mr. Rove never intended to withhold details of a conversation with a reporter from Mr. Fitzgerald, noting that Mr. Rove had signed a waiver to allow reporters to reveal to prosecutors their discussions with confidential sources. In addition, they said, Mr. Rove testified fully about his conversation with Mr. Cooper - long before Mr. Cooper did - acknowledging that it was possible that the subject of Mr. Wilson's trip had come up.

It is now known that Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury have questioned Mr. Rove about two conversations with reporters. The first, which he admitted to investigators from the outset, took place on July 9, 2003, in a telephone call initiated by Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. In a column about Mr. Wilson's trip four days after the call to Mr. Rove, Mr. Novak disclosed the identity of Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. intelligence officer who was said by Mr. Novak to have had a role in arranging her husband's trip. Mr. Novak identified her as Valerie Plame, Ms. Wilson's maiden name.

In was in that conversation that Mr. Rove first learned the name of the C.I.A. officer from Mr. Novak, according to lawyers in the case. Mr. Rove testified that up until then he had heard only fragmentary information about her from reporters, the lawyers said.

Mr. Rove's second conversation with a reporter was with Mr. Cooper of Time on July 11, 2003. In that conversation, Mr. Rove did not mention Ms. Wilson's name, but, according to Mr. Cooper's account, Mr. Rove did say that she worked at the C.I.A., may have been responsible for sending her husband on the trip to Africa and worked on issues related to unconventional weapons.

In February 2004, when Mr. Rove testified about his conversations with reporters, he recalled the Novak conversation, but no other interviews with reporters - an omission that Mr. Fitzgerald has investigated as a possible false statement or perjury. Mr. Rove said he had forgotten the discussion with Mr. Cooper, the lawyers said.

Mr. Fitzgerald did not learn of the Cooper conversation until months later when a search of Mr. Rove's e-mails uncovered the e-mail that he had sent to Mr. Hadley. "Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming," Mr. Rove wrote in the message to Mr. Hadley that was first disclosed in July by the Associated Press.

"When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger," Mr. Rove wrote. "Isn't this damaging? Hasn't president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn't get Time far out on this."

It is not publicly known why Mr. Rove's e-mail message to Mr. Hadley was not turned over earlier, but a lawyer in the case said that White House documents were collected in response to several separate requests that may not have covered certain time periods or all relevant officials. Mr. Rove had no role in the search for documents, which was carried out by an administrative office in the White House.

Mr. Rove corrected his testimony in a grand jury appearance on Oct. 14, 2004, after which Mr. Luskin said Mr. Rove had answered all questions truthfully.