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Senator Seeks Assessment of Damage From CIA Leak - 2003-10-14

The U.S. Senate's top Democrat is calling on the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to provide Congress with an assessment of the damage to U.S. intelligence that may have been caused by the leak of a CIA officer's name.

Senator Tom Daschle says he is sending a letter to CIA director, George Tenet, asking him to give lawmakers a formal assessment of the impact the leak has had, and what can be done to rectify the situation.

"The depth of damage not only in exposing an individual but exposing as well of the kind of operation underway within the CIA is extraordinary in the magnitude of concern that it ought to cause all of us," he said.

At issue is the disclosure to reporters that the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson was a CIA officer.

Ambassador Wilson, who has criticized President Bush's policy on Iraq, says he believes administration officials leaked his wife's name to deter other critics from speaking out.

In an article in July, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, citing two unidentified administration officials as his sources.

The Justice Department is investigating whether any crime has been committed.

Democratic critics say they do not believe Attorney General John Ashcroft can lead an impartial probe. They criticize the delay granted to White House staff to turn over pertinent records related to the investigation.

President Bush has vowed cooperation with the inquiry. But last week he questioned whether the leaker would ever be identified.

The comment drew anger from Senator Daschle, who said: "I was concerned last week when the President said it was unlikely that any guilt could be found, that it was unlikely this investigation would prove to be productive. That too sends a chilling message to all those who are investigating."

Senator Daschle wrote to the president last week to denounce what he called 'the serious missteps' in the probe.