Air Force One phone records sought

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed telephone records of Air Force One for the week before a newspaper column revealing the identity of a CIA officer was published.

According to Newsday, the grand jury looking into the question of who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to the press, also wants records created in July 2003 by the White House Iraq Group, an obscure inside task force created in 2002 to establish a strategy to publicize the grave threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

The grand jury subpoenas also seek a transcript of a White House press briefing in Nigeria; who was at a birthday reception for former President Gerald Ford and records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and media organizations.

Newsday said the three subpoenas were issued three weeks after Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney in Chicago, was named to head the Plame investigation and during the testimonies of the first wave of White House staffers before the grand jury.

The probe seeks to learn who, if anyone, in the White House violated federal law that bars disclosing the identity of an undercover intelligence agent.

This investigation arose from concerns that Bush administration officials had contacted reporters to publicize the name of Valerie Plame in an effort to discredit her husband’s criticism of the White House policy on Iraq. Her husband is former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.

The CIA sent Wilson to Niger in 2002 to check out reports that Saddam Hussein’s government had tried to buy uranium from the African nation. Wilson reported the claim was false.

Two of the subpoenas are aimed at White House records just before and just after the July 14 column by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak. Novak said “two senior administration officials” had told him Plame was a CIA officer.

The requested telephone records are for the period from July 7 to July 12, while the president was visiting several African nations. The White House has refused to disclose who was on that trip.

That subpoena also sought a transcript of an informal press briefing at the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria by then-press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Grand jurors also want all documents of the White House Iraq Group’s meetings between July 6 and July 30. The group meets weekly in the Situation Room of the White House and includes senior political adviser Karl Rove. The group in now supposedly disbanded.

No other reports of this group had appeared save for one article in the Washington Post in August.

Source: Newsday

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