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An Independent Counsel Needed to Investigate the White House Leak

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By Rep. Maxine Waters

There is no doubt that someone leaked the name of a covert CIA operative to the press. The information appeared in a July 15 nationally syndicated column written by Robert Novak, who attributed the leak to two senior administration officials. Is there a traitor in the White House?

We may never know who told Robert Novak that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction, especially since the Bush Administration has rejected requests from Congress and the American people to appoint a special counsel to investigate the matter.

Polls indicate that 70 percent of Americans favor the appointment of a special counsel. Instead the administration has opted for an "in-house" probe conducted by the Justice Department headed by Attorney General John Ashcroft and his new second-in-command Robert McCallum, a former Yale classmate and old friend of the President.

However, the fact that a CIA agent's name was leaked to the press a few days after her husband questioned the administration's use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq, can only be looked upon as an act of vengeance. It gives the American people a new insight into the administration's lack of honesty and its callous disregard for safety of the people who serve this country.

Joseph Wilson spent 23 years as a foreign service officer and as an ambassador in the Clinton Administration and the first Bush Administration. He was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein.
In February of 2002, at the request of the Bush Administration, Wilson traveled to Niger to investigate a claim that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase uranium from that African nation.

After his investigation, Wilson concluded in a study for the CIA that there was no evidence to support claims that Hussein had tried to purchase uranium in Niger. Apparently, that was not what the Administration wanted to hear because in his State of the Union address in January, President Bush, citing British intelligence, repeated the baseless claim.

Perhaps the administration brushed aside Wilson's report because he did not support war in Iraq. Wilson supported containment, backed by force, rather than an invasion. During the run-up to war, Wilson developed doubts about the administration's credibility in making its case for war. He went public with his doubts in a commentary published by the New York Times on July 6.

Wilson wrote: "Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq? Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

About a week later, Wilson's wife was exposed as a CIA operative jeopardizing her safety, possibly her life. If this information was in fact leaked to the press by senior administration officials, it is more than an outrage; it is a felony bordering on treason.

Only after Wilson's commentary in the New York Times and only after the outing of his wife as a CIA agent did President Bush finally admit he cited bogus evidence about Saddam's quest for uranium in Niger.

Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Where are the drones capable of deploying biological and chemical weapons? Where is the link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11? Where is the truth about why this administration started a war in Iraq?

It should now be crystal clear that the Bush Administration will say anything, even if there was no basis in fact, to justify its agenda, whether it is a war in Iraq or tax cuts for the rich. Exposing a covert CIA operative as an act of vengeance against her husband graphically illustrates that the Bush White House will stoop to the lowest of level of treachery to discredit those who would dare expose the lies and deceit that led us into an unnecessary war that cost the lives of hundreds of our young people.

If we cannot trust this administration to tell us the truth about reasons for going to war, if we cannot trust this administration to tell us the truth about cutting taxes for the richest Americans, if we cannot trust this administration to provide adequate health care for our senior citizens or adequate education for our children, if this administration would undermine its own intelligence gathering community by outing its own covert operative, how can we trust it to investigate itself.

We must demand that the "senior administration officials" who leaked information about Valerie Plame to the media be identified and punished to the fullest extent of the law. We must demand an independent investigation conducted by a special counsel to achieve that goal.

If the Bush Administration has proved anything in the past two-and-a-half years, it has proved it cannot be trusted.

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