The CIA operative’s identity was first revealed by senior administration officials in July a week after her husband former ambassador to Iraq, Joseph Wilson, publicly challenged President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. When asked directly, White House press secretary said for the first time Bush’s chief advisor Karl Rove “wasn’t involved. The president knows he wasn’t involved.”
The Wilson affair has been pushed into the limelight, with all major networks and newspapers asking the same question: Is there a felon roaming the White House? The Justice Department said it is looking into an allegation that senior administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to conservative columnist Robert Novak.
The operative’s identity was published in July, a week after her husband, former acting ambassador to Iraq Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger for possible use in nuclear weapons.
Novak yesterday denied that he had been approached with the information. On CNN’s Crossfire he said: “Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson’s report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction.”
However, Novak said back in July that his sources had come to him with the information. In a July 22nd article in Newsday, Novak says “I didn’t dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.”
Meanwhile the White House rejected demands by congress members for an independent probe into who leaked the information. If the Justice Department finds grounds for a full investigation Attorney General John Ashcroft will have to decide whether to appoint a special counsel to oversee the case. This could lead to a conflict of interest with the Bush Justice Department investigating employees of the Bush White House.
The Washington Post reported that Wilson said he believes Bush’s senior advisor Karl Rove “at a minimum condoned the leak,” but said he has no evidence Rove was the original leaker. Wilson said “My knowledge is based on a reporter who called me right after he had spoken to Rove and said that Rove had said my wife was fair game.” He said that conversation occurred on July 21.
Wilson also said a producer from another network told him about the same time that, “The White House is saying things about you and your wife that are so off the wall that we won’t use them.”
White House press secretary Scott McClellan yesterday spent nearly half an hour responding to reporters’ questions about the Wilson case. Notably, McClellan said Rove “wasn’t involved. The president knows he wasn’t involved.” McClellan didn’t offer a blanket denial for anyone else at the White House.
- White House Press press briefing, September 29, 2003.