Bush Calls CIA Leak a 'Criminal Action'

Monday, President Bush discussed the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Of course he said it's a serious matter. But he also said it's a criminal action. Let's see him backtrack from that one. Or, maybe he knows who will take the fall for the leak and it's not one of his top henchmen. Or they've figured out a way for Karl Rove to be insulated.

Bush, in his most extensive comments about the leak to date, urged the person who disclosed the information to come forward. "I'd like to know who leaked, and if anybody has got any information inside our government or outside our government who leaked, you ought to take it to the Justice Department so we can find the leaker," the president said.

Bush added that "we're talking about a criminal action" and that he looked forward "to finding the truth."

As of Monday, only 500 of the 2,000 White House employees had responded to the Justice Department's request for documents. The deadline is 5:00 pm today.

Investigators say they want access to electronic records, phone logs, documents and diaries that relate to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, a trip he took to Niger in 2002, his wife's relationship with the CIA, or any contact with the syndicated columnist Robert Novak and two other reporters who wrote about Wilson.

Then there's this: White House officials are going to review all material before turning it over to the Justice Department--a review they say may take weeks:

White House lawyers will review phone logs and other records supplied by presidential aides before turning the documents over to the Justice Department officials conducting the investigation into who leaked a CIA undercover operative's identity, officials said Monday.

What a joke. At least Democratic leaders have seen through it and are stepping up calls for an independent probe.

"To allow the White House counsel to review records before the prosecutors would see them is just about unheard of in the way cases are always prosecuted," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking on NBC's Today show. "And the possibility of mischief, or worse than mischief, is very, very large."

For those of you following the California recall instead of this story, the Dallas Morning News provides this recap of the probe:

Under investigation is whether Bush administration officials identified an undercover CIA officer, Valerie Plame, to reporters. Ms. Plame is married to former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who was sent by the CIA in 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. Mr. Wilson later publicly challenged the administration's handling of intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq. Identifying Ms. Plame raises questions of nepotism regarding Mr. Wilson's assignment. He has said the leak was revenge and an effort to keep others quiet.

An unidentified "senior administration official" told The Washington Post that two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists. Mr. Wilson has said that reporters from three television networks told him about the White House calls. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak reported Ms. Plame's identity July 14, calling her "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." He has said that he did not get a call with the information but that it came up in interviews.

Many Democrats have called for Attorney General John Ashcroft to appoint a special counsel to investigate. The law allowing for independent counsel investigations, such as that led by Kenneth Starr during the Clinton years, expired in 1999. Justice Department guidelines call for the appointment of a special counsel if there is a conflict of interest or if it is in the public interest to do so.

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