Bush holds back on CIA probe waivers

The Bush White House attracted criticism last week for its failure to order its employees to comply with a new Justice Department effort to find out who leaked the identity of a senior CIA official.

The Justice Department is attempting to learn if one or more White House senior officials leaked the identity and CIA status of Valerie Plame, wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Last summer, Wilson publicly rapped evidence about nuclear material from Africa used by the Bush administration to justify invading Iraq. His wife’s identity as a CIA official apparently was leaked to columnist Robert Novak in an effort to get back at Wilson.

NBC News recently said investigators have asked administration officials to sign a waiver freeing journalists from any promises of confidentiality they made to their sources. The network cited legal experts who said the forms are a ploy to push reporters into disclosing Novak’s sources.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, asked if White House employees would be ordered to sign the waivers, said: “The president has directed the White House to cooperate fully with the career officials who are leading this investigation. And that’s exactly what he expects the White House to continue doing. We have been, and we will continue to do so.”

Global Security News, however, reported that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card urging the president to order his employees to sign the waivers.

Schumer’s letter said “full cooperation” means releasing journalists from their obligation to protect their sources.

“It took long enough to get the Justice Department to do the right thing with regard to this case, we shouldn’t have to keep pestering the White House to cooperate,” Schumer said.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said states that have dealt with the issue of reporter’s privilege concluded that privilege rests with the reporters and not their sources. She told Global Security News the waivers “will have no effect on the journalists’ behavior whatsoever.”

Both Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has recused himself from the case, have tried to shift some of the blame onto the media.

“I have no idea whether we’ll find out who the leaker is,” Bush said, “partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers.”

(Full story at www.govexec.com/daily fed/0104/010704gsnl.htm)

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