Mon Oct 17, 2005 20:33



Memo Gets Attention in Probe of CIA Leak

In this photograph taken in June 2003, Karl Rove, senior advisor to President Bush and Robert Novak are pictured together at a party marking the 40th anniversary of Novak's newspaper column at the Army Navy Club in Washington DC. At the event a number of people wore buttons reading, 'I'm a source, not a target.' Rove is at the center of a controversy about the leaking of a CIA operative's identity which originally appeared in Novak's newspaper column. (AP Photo/Lauren Shay)

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON - A State Department memo that has caught the attention of prosecutors describes a CIA officer's role in sending her husband to Africa and disputes administration claims that Iraq was shopping for uranium, a retired department official said Tuesday.

The classified memo was sent to Air Force One just after former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson went public with his assertions that the Bush administration overstated the evidence that Iraq was interested in obtaining uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons.

The memo has become a key piece of evidence in the CIA leak investigation because it could have been the way someone in the White House learned — and then leaked — the information that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and played a role in sending him on the mission.

The document was prepared in June 2003 at the direction of Carl W. Ford Jr., then head of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research, for Marc Grossman, the retired official said. Grossman was the Undersecretary of State who was in charge of the department while Secretary Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, were traveling. Grossman needed the memo because he was dealing with other issues and was not familiar with the subject, the former official said.

"It wasn't a Wilson-Wilson wife memo," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. "It was a memo on uranium in Niger and focused principally on our disagreement" with the White House.

Armitage called Ford after Wilson's op-ed piece in The New York Times and his TV appearance on July 6, 2003 in which he challenged the White House's claim that Iraq had purchased uranium yellowcake from Niger.

Armitage asked that Powell, who was traveling to Africa with Bush, be given an account of the Wilson trip, said the former official.

The original June 2003 memo was readdressed to Powell and included a short summary prepared by an analyst who was at a 2002 CIA meeting where Wilson's trip was arranged and was sent in one piece to Powell on Air Force One the next day.

The memo said Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and suggested her husband go to Niger because he had contacts there and had served as an American diplomat in Africa. However, the official said the memo did not say she worked undercover for the spy agency nor did it identify her as Valerie Plame, which was her maiden name and cover name at the CIA.

Her identity as Plame was disclosed first by columnist Robert Novak and then by Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. The leak investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is looking into who in the Bush administration leaked Plame's identity to reporters and whether any laws were broken.

A 1982 law prohibits the deliberate exposure of the identity of an undercover CIA officer.

Wilson believes the Bush administration leaked the name as retribution for his criticism.

President Bush said Monday he would fire any member of his staff who "committed a crime," a change from his previous vow to fire anyone involved in the leak.

The past two weeks have brought revelations that top presidential aide Karl Rove was involved in leaking the identity of Plame to Novak and to Cooper.

The former State Department official stressed the memo focused on Wilson's trip and the State Department intelligence bureau's disagreement with the White House's claim about Iraq trying to get nuclear material. He said the fact that the CIA officer and Wilson were husband and wife was largely an incidental reference.

The June 2003 memo had not gone higher than Grossman until Wilson's op-ed column for The New York Times headlined "What I Didn't Find In Africa" and his TV appearance to dispute the administration. Wilson's article asked the question: "Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion?"


Forget Miller: Another SPJ Honoree Gets Flak

By Mark Fitzgerald

Published: October 17, 2005 2:55 PM ET

CHICAGO Already under fire in some quarters for its plans to honor New York Times reporter Judith Miller with its First Amendment Award Tuesday, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) reaffirmed its intention to bestow a similar award to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan -- despite a last-minute campaign against the decision.

Madigan is widely regarded in Illinois as a champion of public access to government information and meetings. In 2003, the Illinois Press Association cited her "commitment to principles of a free and open government" when it honored her with its Legislative Service Award.

However, when SPJ announced its plan to honor Madigan with its 2005 National Sunshine Award at its annual convention in Las Vegas this week, the choice sparked opposition from a student newspaper in Texas as well as and an Illinois environmental group.

The Daily Texan, the student newspaper for the University of Texas at Austin, urged SPJ not to honor Madigan, saying in an editorial that "she is responsible for a court case that makes the jobs of student journalists much more difficult."

The case referred to involved student journalists at Governors State University in Illinois, who sued the dean over a policy requiring prior approval of content before the paper could be printed. The students won on appeal to a three-judge panel, but Madigan petitioned the appellate court for a hearing before the full 11-judge court. In that appeal, a majority of judges ruled that university officials have the same powers over a school newspaper as high school principals and administrators were given in 1988's so-called Hazelwood decision.

Also opposing the award to Madigan is the Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society. In a lengthy letter to SPJ, which he copied to numerous parties including E&P, the group’s president, Paul A. Kakuris, accuses Madigan of numerous abuses of the press and open government. A particular focus is on the fact that a task force Madigan formed to investigate asbestos contamination in a state park does not permit public access to its meetings.

The attorney general's office has said the state's strong open meetings law does not apply to the task force -- composed of representatives from various Illinois and U.S. government agencies -- because it is not a public body.

Despite the controversy, SPJ's board of directors on Saturday affirmed its decision to go ahead with the award, the organization's incoming president, David Carlson, said in a telephone interview Monday.

As in the award to Miller, Carlson said, "It's one of the cases where we don't like everything this woman does; however, she has really shined a light on public records in Illinois."

Carlson noted that Madigan was nominated by the Chicago Headline Club, SPJ's professional chapter in Chicago, and argued that if there were any abuse of the press, as Kakuris alleges, they would not have nominated her.

On the student newspaper case, which is known as Hosty v. Carter, Carlson said that Madigan did not originate the case, but was obligated as the state's lawyer to act on the state's behalf.

The award is not an endorsement of the state's position in that case, he said. "We abhor what is going on in Hosty," said Carlson, who is director of the Interactive Media Laboratory at the University of Florida.
Mark Fitzgerald (mfitzgerald@editorandpublisher.com ) is E&P's editor-at-large.


New York Times reporter Judith Miller to speak on Oct. 18

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