OK - so this is the story. The White House get's pissed that someone tells the world that they were wrong and then a story comes out with the name of the guys wife (and I still don't understand how this was important) who was UNDERCOVER for the CIA.... and we are to believe that the reporter just stumbled on it??
And then, the White House says that the Justice Department - which need I remind you is lead by a man who lost an election to someone that was DEAD and who was then appointed to the post by George Jr. (Shrub) - is the one that should lead the investigation? When Clinton got a blow job - we needed special prosecutors. When a CIA operatives life may have been put on the line - that isn't important enough? Hmmmm, priorities, priorities, priorities......
White House Denies a Top Aide Identified an Officer of the C.I.A.
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and RICHARD W. STEVENSON
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 — The White House today dismissed as "ridiculous" the suggestion that Karl Rove, senior adviser to President Bush, had illegally disclosed the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer, as the F.B.I. opened an investigation into the case.
At the same time, the White House rejected growing calls from Democrats for the appointment of a special outside counsel to determine whether someone in the administration had disclosed the officer's identity in an effort to punish criticism of its Iraqi intelligence by the officer's husband.
Asked if there was a need for an independent counsel, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said, "At this point, I think the Department of Justice would be the appropriate one to look into a matter like this."
Pressed on whether there would be a potential conflict of interest for Attorney General John Ashcroft to oversee an investigation that could have immense political implications for Mr. Bush, Mr. McClellan said that there were "a lot of career professionals" at the Justice Department and that "they're the ones that, if something like this happened, should look into it."
The growing furor underscored the Bush administration's continued political vulnerability on the issue of whether it exaggerated the threat from Iraq before the war. The developments also raised questions about the relationship between the White House and George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence.
It was the C.I.A.'s general counsel who asked the Justice Department to open an inquiry into the July newspaper column, by the syndicated writer Robert Novak, that identified an undercover C.I.A. agent.
The firestorm over the leak comes at a time when even some Republicans in Congress are beginning to cast a more skeptical eye on the administration's use of intelligence to make its case against Iraq. In an interim assessment made public over the weekend, the senior Republican and senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said there were "too many uncertainties" in the intelligence underlying the National Intelligence Estimate used by the administration to justify the war.
Faced with a torrent of questions from reporters, Mr. McClellan engaged in a balancing act all day. He said the issue of disclosing classified information about a C.I.A. officer was "a very serious matter" that should be "pursued to the fullest extent" by the Justice Department. But he also repeatedly said there was no evidence that Mr. Rove or any other White House officials, including those in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, had disclosed such information.
"There's been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president's office as well," he said.
Should any White House officials be found to have disclosed the information, he said, they would lose their jobs, "at a minimum."
The White House sought today to head off the calls for a special counsel as numerous Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates said they doubted that the Justice Department could investigate without at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.
One Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, said the situation was reason enough to revive the independent counsel law, which Congress allowed to die in 1999 after widespread concern over Kenneth W. Starr's Whitewater investigation.
The current regulations, put in place by former Attorney General Janet Reno, give Mr. Ashcroft discretion over whether to appoint a special counsel if the department appears to have a conflict of interest.
In a letter to Mr. Ashcroft the Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, and three other leading Democrats said, "We do not believe that this investigation of senior Bush administration officials, possibly including high-level White House staff, can be conducted by the Justice Department because of the obvious and inherent conflicts of interest involved."
Mr. Bush ignored a reporter's shouted question about the matter this afternoon in the Rose Garden.
Mr. Novak's column centered on a retired diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson 4th, who concluded more than a year and a half ago in a report for the C.I.A. that there was no clear evidence that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium ore from Africa in order to build nuclear weapons.
Mr. Novak disclosed in his column that although Mr. Wilson never worked for the C.I.A., his wife, Valerie Plame, "is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction" and that "two senior administration officials" told him that she was the one who suggested sending him to Africa.
Speaking on CNN today, Mr. Novak said, "Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this." Instead, he said he was doing reporting on Mr. Wilson's Africa trip when a senior administration official told him the trip was inspired by his wife.
It is a felony for any official with access to classified information to disclose the identity of a covert American agent. Mr. Novak said he did not believe that was the situation.
He said he checked with the C.I.A., which asked him not to use Ms. Plame's name but gave him no indication that doing so would endanger her or anyone else. He also suggested that Ms. Plame might not have been an undercover agent.
"According to a confidential source at the C.I.A., Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operative, and not in charge of undercover operatives," he said.
In an interview tonight, Mr. Wilson declined to comment on his wife's job, but said the C.I.A. would not have referred the matter to the Justice Department for investigation if it did not believe national security had been breached and the law broken.
Mr. Wilson backed off somewhat from his previous statements that Mr. Rove had probably leaked the story. But, Mr. Wilson said, "at a minimum, he condoned it, and he most certainly did nothing during the six or seven days after the Novak article appeared to discourage others from talking about it."
Soon after Mr. Novak's column first appeared, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, pressed Mr. Ashcroft to open a criminal investigation, and the C.I.A. referred the issue in late July to the Justice Department.
Mr. Ashcroft decided during the past several days to move ahead with a preliminary inquiry, and the Justice Department notified the F.B.I. late today that the bureau would lead the investigation.
"We'll start with the C.I.A.," said an F.B.I. official. "They're the ones that held the information, so we'll go from there to find out who had access to it."