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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | Democrats press Rove on CIA leak

BBC NEWS | Americas | Democrats press Rove on CIA leak Democrats press Rove on CIA leak
US Democrats have urged the White House to give a full account of senior aide Karl Rove's alleged role in disclosing the name of an undercover CIA officer.

The calls came after revelations that Mr Rove contacted journalist Matthew Cooper about the agent days before her identity was revealed in the press.

The White House has refused to comment on the affair, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.

Mr Rove has previously denied being behind the disclosure.

Prosecutors are investigating how the identity of the agent, Valerie Plame, was revealed in the media in 2003.

Deliberate exposure of a covert agent is a criminal offence in the US.

The affair has led to a tense stand-off between the government and the media over the right of journalists to keep contacts confidential.

Credibility questioned

Newsweek magazine quoted Mr Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, as saying he discussed Ms Plame with Cooper in an e-mail without mentioning her name or being aware that she was working covertly.

The lessons of history for George Bush and Karl Rove is that the best way to help themselves is to bring out all the facts, on their own, quickly
Democrat Senator Charles Schumer

Correspondents say that, while it is up to prosecutors to find out whether a crime has been committed, the government's credibility is now at stake because of previous denials by Mr Rove.

Democrats said the White House should reveal all the facts of the case.

"The lessons of history for [US President] George Bush and Karl Rove is that the best way to help themselves is to bring out all the facts, on their own, quickly," said New York Senator Charles Schumer.

Senate Minority leader Harry Reid said he hoped President Bush would follow through on a pledge to sack anyone involved in leaking the agent's name.

Niger claim

But White House spokesman Scott McClellan would not say whether the pledge still stood.

Feb 2002 : Joseph Wilson looks into reports that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger
6 July 2003 : Mr Wilson goes public about investigation
14 July 2003 : Columnist Robert Novak writes the trip was inspired by Ms Plame - Matthew Cooper reports that he had similar information
30 September : Justice department launches probe
24 June 2004 : President Bush testifies in case
15 July : Cooper and Judith Miller ordered to testify about sources
10 August : Miller and Cooper sentenced for contempt of court
28 June 2005 : Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal
6 July : Miller jailed after appeals fail, Cooper agrees to testify

Facing hostile questioning at a news conference, he said: "No-one wants to get to the bottom of this more than the president of the United States.

"And I think the way to be most helpful is to not get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation."

Cooper, who writes for Time magazine, and fellow journalist Judith Miller of the New York Times, had both been ordered to testify about their sources in the leak case.

Cooper later agreed to testify after Mr Rove apparently said he could do so.

But Miller maintained her refusal - arguing that it was her duty as a journalist to protect her sources - and was jailed.

Ms Plame's husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson, has alleged that his wife's identity was made public in an attempt to discredit him after he challenged the government's arguments for going to war in Iraq.

Mr Wilson says he travelled to Niger to investigate a claim that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material there but found no evidence to prove it.

Mr Luskin said Mr Rove's e-mail to Cooper said that Ms Plame had authorised the trip.

Its purpose was to discourage Time magazine from publishing false allegations that Vice-President Dick Cheney was behind the trip, not to deliberately expose Ms Plame, he added.

The claim was used by President Bush as one of the reasons for invading Iraq.

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