29 September 2003
No Evidence White House Leaked CIA Agent's Name, Spokesman Says
White House Report, Sept. 29: Bush wants Justice
Department to pursue matter
There is no evidence indicating that White House personnel leaked
the name of an undercover agent of the Central Intelligence Agency
to a journalist, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told
reporters September 29.
McClellan said "there's been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought
to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that
includes the vice president's office, as well."
McClellan was asked about the matter after NBC News reported that
CIA Director George Tenet had asked the Justice Department to investigate
McClellan also denied that Bush's top political strategist, Karl
Rove, was behind the reported leak.
"[T]here is simply no truth to that suggestion. And I have spoken
with Karl about it," the press secretary said.
"All we've seen is what is in the media reports. The media reports
cite 'senior administration official,' or 'senior administration
officials,'" the press secretary said.
"If there's specific information that comes to our attention,
that's another matter. But there has not been any information beyond
what we've seen in just anonymous media reporting to suggest that
there was White House involvement," McClellan said.
President Bush wants anyone who has information about the leak
to give that information to the Department of Justice, McClellan
said, adding that Bush "believes leaking classified information
is a very serious matter" that "should be pursued to the fullest
extent." Publicly identifying an undercover agent is a criminal
"The president expects everyone in his administration to adhere
to the highest standards of conduct," McClellan said. "No one would
be authorized to do such a thing."
Syndicated columnist Robert Novak published the intelligence officer's
name shortly after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C.
Wilson, undermined Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium
Wilson wrote in The New York Times in July 2003 that he went to
Niger in February 2002 at the request of the CIA to assess a report
that Iraq sought to buy uranium from that country. He wrote that
he found the report groundless. The report was later dismissed
by the International Atomic Energy Agency as based on forged documents.
The Niger uranium charge found its way into Bush's State of the
Union speech last January as part of the U.S. case against Saddam
Hussein, and only after Wilson went public did the White House
admit Bush should not have included it.
CIA Director George Tenet took responsibility for not getting
the White House to drop the Niger charge from the speech, in a
controversy that consumed part of the summer.
Now the CIA has asked the Justice Department to look into whether
one or more Bush administration officials leaked information to
the news media exposing the secret identity of Wilson's wife.
Democratic candidates for the presidency and several Democratic
members of Congress are demanding that a non-partisan independent
counsel be appointed to lead an investigation into the matter.