<I>In leak of CIA name...</I><BR>Justice Dept. looks into possible White House link
WASHINGTON — Authorities are looking into allegations that White House officials revealed the identity of a CIA operative, in possible violation of the law.
The naming of the intelligence officer's identity by syndicated columnist Robert Novak came shortly after her husband had undermined President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa.
Bush national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday she was unaware of any White House involvement in the matter.
"I know nothing of any such White House effort to reveal any of this, and it certainly would not be the way that the president would expect his White House to operate," she told "Fox News Sunday."
Secretary of State Colin Powell also denied knowledge of the matter.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Justice Department has received a letter from CIA Director George Tenet to look into the matter.
The department and the FBI are trying to determine whether there was a violation of the law and, if so, then whether a full-blown criminal investigation is warranted, the official said.
The flap began in January when Bush said in his State of the Union speech that British intelligence officials had learned that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Africa.
In a July opinion piece in The New York Times, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson said he told the CIA long before Bush's speech that the British reports were suspect and the administration has since said the assertion should not have been in Bush's speech.
A week after Wilson went public with his criticism, Novak – quoting anonymous sources – said Wilson's wife was a CIA operative working on the issue of weapons of mass destruction.
The Washington Post on Sunday quoted an unidentified senior administration official as saying two top White House officials called at least a half-dozen journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. Disclosing the name of an undercover CIA agent could violate federal law.
Wilson said today that he believes the White House leaked his wife's name "to intimidate others and to scare them and to keep them from coming forward and speaking."
Wilson had said in late August that he suspected senior Bush adviser Karl Rove. But on ABC's "Good Morning America" today, he backtracked somewhat from that assertion. "I think I was probably carried away by the spirit of the moment. I don't have any knowledge that Karl Rove himself was either the leaker or the authorizer of the leak. But I have great confidence that, at a minimum, he condoned it."
The White House has denied that accusation.
Wilson said today that if the administration actually took an intelligence asset "off the table," that would have been "a dastardly deed ... coming from an administration that came to office promising to restore dignity and honor to the White House. It was contemptible."