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White House Denies Leaking CIA Agent's Name - 2003-09-29

The White House says it has no evidence any of its officials was involved in leaking the name of a CIA officer whose husband challenged evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The Justice Department has been asked to look into the allegations.

CIA Director George Tenet wants the Justice Department to investigate whether someone at the White House leaked the name of one his agents.

The Washington Post reports that agent's name was disclosed to at least six Washington journalists in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly challenged President George Bush's claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa.

Mr. Bush made that claim in his State of the Union Address, and the later revelation that it was based largely on forged documents led to a series of continuing questions about how the administration used intelligence reports to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Ambassador Wilson says he suspects that the president's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, was involved in leaking his wife's identity. He says he does not know whether Mr. Rove was the source of that information, but believes that the president's long-time adviser condoned the action.

Intentionally disclosing a covert operative's name violates federal law and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the suggestion that Mr. Rove was involved in the affair is ridiculous. Mr. McClellan says he spoke with Mr. Rove who personally assured him that he had nothing to do with the leak.

"There is simply no truth to that suggestion and I have spoken with Karl about it," he said.

Mr. McClellan says revealing such sensitive information is not the way this White House operates.

"The president believes leaking classified information is a very serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest extent by the appropriate agency, and the appropriate agency is the Department of Justice," said Mr. McClellan.

Mr. McClellan said he has seen no evidence of White House involvement in the issue other than what he has heard from the media. He says no one from the Justice Department has contacted the White House about investigating the leak, but if they do, Mr. McClellan says the administration will cooperate in every way.

Some Congressional Democrats have called for a special investigator to look into the allegations because they believe the Justice Department is not impartial enough to probe the White House. That decision is up to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Mr. McClellan does not believe such an independent counsel is necessary because, he said, the president is confident that the Justice Department will find out what happened.