Skip to comments.Special counsel named for White House leak [U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald]
Posted on 12/31/2003 9:27:59 AM PST by HAL9000
A special counsel from inside the Justice Department will conduct an independent investigation of the White House leak allegations, a top department official said Tuesday.
Deputy Attorney General James Comey also told reporters that Attorney General John Ashcroft had recused himself, or withdrawn from supervising the investigation.
Ashcroft had come under criticism that his supervision of the process would be a conflict of interest.
Comey named Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, a Bush appointee, as special counsel to conduct the independent investigation.
A former U.S. ambassador has said administration sources improperly revealed the name of his wife, an undercover CIA officer, to Washington reporters in political retaliation for his criticism of Iraq policy.
Revealing such information could be a felony when it is disclosed by federal employees with access to national security matters.
Congress allowed the independent counsel provisions of the Ethics in Government Act to expire in 1999 after the unpopular impeachment of President Bill Clinton. However, Attorney General Janet Reno adopted the expired provisions almost word for word as Justice Department regulations.
The main difference is that a special counsel is appointed by Justice Department officials and is ultimately responsible to the attorney general or deputy attorney general, while an independent counsel is appointed by a special three-judge panel and reports to the panel.
At the Justice Department Tuesday, Comey said, "Effective today, the attorney general has recused himself and his staff from this matter ... I agree with that judgment."
Comey said before the recusal, Ashcroft and he had decided a special counsel was needed to conduct the investigation. The deputy attorney general said Fitzgerald was his choice, and Ashcroft had no role in the selection.
Comey insisted that choosing a U.S. attorney, part of the Justice Department apparatus, would ensure an independent investigation.
"I chose Mr. Fitzgerald, my friend and former colleague, based on his sterling reputation for integrity and impartiality," Comey said. Fitzgerald would be "absolutely apolitical," he added.
To make sure that the investigation is independent, Comey said, Fitzgerald would make all decisions about staff and resources.
Choosing a U.S. attorney, someone already familiar with department investigations, "permits this investigation to move forward immediately," Comey said. "I have concluded that it is not in the public interest to remove this matter entirely from the Department of Justice."
Though the controversy had been simmering since last summer, the news broke in September that months earlier the CIA had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation.
Up till then, the Justice Department had made no move to investigate the allegation.
Within several days, however, department officials were saying that a preliminary investigation had begun.
President George W. Bush and the White House then pledged cooperation with the Justice Department in the leak investigation, but administration officials said the White House would not conduct its own internal investigation. Bush also said he would not question his aides about whether they played a role in the leaks.
The case involves CIA officer Valerie Plame, wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Wilson served as a special CIA envoy to Africa in 2002 to investigate allegations that Iraq was trying to obtain "yellow cake" uranium from Niger. Wilson's mission determined that there was no truth to the allegations.
When Bush alleged in last year's State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to acquire the uranium to develop nuclear weapons, citing British reports, Wilson was openly critical of the assertion.
Last July, unnamed administration sources told columnist Robert Novak that Wilson was selected by the CIA as an envoy after lobbying by his wife. The sources revealed Plame's identity, and Novak identified her as a CIA employee in a July column, quoting the unnamed sources.
Other journalists in Washington reportedly also were approached by administration sources with the same information, but Novak apparently was the only one who used it.
Wilson subsequently charged that the revelation of Plame's identity was punishment for his criticism of Bush's Iraq assertions.
Ashcroft initially rejected the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the matter, saying career Justice Department officials could do the job in a non-partisan manner.
The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime for a federal employee with access to classified information to make an unauthorized disclosure about a covert intelligence officer.
A conviction could bring up to 10 years in prison.
Copyright 2003 by United Press International
There would be a seeming conflict if Ashcroft declined to prosecute a Bush administration official. Also the same applies if he opted to prosecute a certain advisor to the Kerry campaign.
Then there's the whole issue whether the worst leaks were not to Novak, but by the "intelligence" sources who leaked Plame's actual status to Newsday.
"undercover" or not, she shouldn't have been outed. Novak lamely mentions that the CIA official who confirmed to him Plame's CIA status asked him not to reveal it, but NOvak did it anyway. He said the CIA official should have more strongly worded his advice. Very lame.
The following Newsday article went into detail about Plame's role in WMD analysis, citing "intelligence" sources. IMO this was much more revealing. The authors of the Newsday article are just as much part of the investigation, despite news reports focusing on Novak.
There's a lot of intrigue going on...pettiness could be part, or the big money "containment" lobby against getting rid of Saddam, and more importantly, UN sanctions on Iraq.
I don't know if the govt. is interested, or even knows about the BBC leak by an intelligence source, speculated here to be Plame herself, as a possibility. Or if there interested in Joe Wilson - for one, was his exoneration of the Niger Government tainted by the fact that he sought, or had sought, to make a private sector deal with that same government for a gold mining operation? What about his connections to Rock Creek Corporation? Saudis? ONe can only hope these be investigated too.
Well, they bloody well ought to be.
He said the first person to tell him was done casually duing a long discussion...indicating perhaps it was a friend of his...who might have been currying favor, but assumed he wouldn't tell.
Then another "senior admin. official" confirmed it with a "oh you know about that" comment.
Then a third confirmed, the CIA official.
The "leak" might have been more negligent than purposeful. But maybe not.
Do you have a link to that BBC article???
For one of the the Beeb articles, this one was the one that sprang to mind immediately, click here.
And note the date of the article.
Doubts about a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African state of Niger were aired 10 months before Mr Bush included the allegation in his key State of the Union address this year, a CIA official has told the BBC.
...But the CIA official has said that a former US diplomat had already established the claim was false in March 2002 - and that the information had been passed on to government departments, including the White House, well before Mr Bush mentioned it in the speech.
Obviously the "CIA Official" might be someone close to the "diplomat" - ie, their spouse.
He can and will get away with it. Never underestimate The Dark Prince.
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