Washington, Sept. 30 (Reuters): The justice department has opened an investigation into the leak of a CIA agent’s identity and the White House has ordered staff to preserve all relevant materials, US President George W. Bush’s spokesman said today.
“The President has directed the White House to cooperate fully with this investigation,” spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Justice department lawyers notified the White House counsel’s office last night that it had begun an investigation into “possible unauthorised disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee,” according to a memo sent to White House staff by counsel Alberto Gonzales.
McClellan said all staff were directed to preserve all materials that could be relevant to the investigation. This would include phone logs and e-mail.
The controversy centres on the disclosure that Valerie Plame — the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Gabon — was an undercover CIA operative specialising in weapons of mass destruction.
Wilson believes his wife’s cover was blown by administration officials seeking to discredit him or get revenge after he accused the White House of exaggerating the threat from Iraq.
Wilson says that Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, condoned the leak. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Rove had assured him it was “simply not true” that he had anything to do with it.
Wilson wrote in The New York Times in July that he went to Niger early in 2002 at the CIA’s request to assess a report that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger.
The International Atomic Energy Agency later dismissed the allegation as based on forged documents.