[LEAK-GATE] Hunt for CIA-leak clues intensifies

[LEAK-GATE] Hunt for CIA-leak clues intensifies
Fri Oct 3 22:40:12 2003

Oct. 3, 2003. 06:19 PM
Hunt for CIA-leak clues intensifies


WASHINGTON (AP) — From top advisers to junior staff, nearly 2,000 White House employees were ordered to come forward by Tuesday with any documents that might help the criminal investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

A memo today cautioned the staff not to seek advice from President George W. Bush's lawyers. The White House counsel's office works solely for the president in his official capacity and is not a private lawyer for anyone, the memo warned, meaning that staff members should hire their own lawyers if they think they need counsel.

Investigators are trying to determine who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operations officer who has served overseas. She is married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who publicly accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq.

Plame's identity was revealed in a July 14 column by syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who said he got the information from two senior administration officials. The name was later reported by Newsday in a story by Timothy Phelps, Washington bureau chief for the Long Island, N.Y., newspaper, and Knut Royce, a staff writer for the paper.

Today's document brought home the gravity of the investigation to all of Bush's staff and touched every corner of the White House, from the West Wing offices of the president and Vice-President Dick Cheney to the East Wing offices of Laura Bush, as well as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and beyond.

Each employee was required to sign a memo certifying either that they have produced relevant documents or have no such documents. The deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday. The order covers materials such as electronic records, telephone logs, correspondence, computer records, notes and calendar entries.

"This certification is for purposes of a federal criminal investigation and that intentional false statements may result in criminal penalties or other sanctions," White House employees were told in the memo from counsel Alberto Gonzales.

The Defence and State departments and the CIA also are part of the investigation.

Promising to co-operate, Secretary of State Colin Powell said his department's officials would search documents and other records "to see if we have anything relevant." He said he was not sure "what they are looking for."

Officials at State were instructed in a separate memo to hold on to the same type of documents demanded at the White House.

"At this stage, Justice is not requesting retrieval/production of documents," the State memo said. "Rather, this is a request that documents that are potentially relevant to the criminal investigation be preserved and not destroyed."

U.S. posts overseas are also being asked to comply.

Two Defence Department officials said they had been told earlier to expect a letter requiring preservation of documents.

Gonzales said employees must produce any documents that relate to Wilson or his wife, his CIA-sponsored trip to Niger in February, 2002, and any media contacts about those subjects. Further, he said the order covers any documents relating to contacts with Novak, Royce or Phelps.

Wilson was sent to Africa to investigate claims that Iraq was trying to buy uranium to build nuclear weapons. He reported there was no evidence to support the claim, and then wrote a commentary in the New York Times last July 6 accusing the administration of twisting the evidence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq.

Federal laws ban anyone who has access to classified information from identifying a covert agent to anyone not authorized to receive classified information, under penalty of up to 10 years in prison.


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