White House officials have been
ordered to preserve all material that might be related to a Justice Department
investigation into allegations that someone leaked the name of a covert CIA employee.
The husband of the CIA employee had publicly challenged the president's claim
that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa.
White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez has ordered the presidential staff to
preserve all documents and notes that might pertain to the investigation.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says no one has come forward with anything
relating to the alleged leak. He says investigators have not yet questioned anyone
at the White House and no one from the administration has hired outside counsel. "We
will cooperate fully with the investigation and make sure that we preserve the
integrity of the investigation, so that is where things are right now," he said.
CIA Director George Tenet asked the Justice Department to investigate whether
someone from the Bush administration leaked the name of a covert CIA officer
in retaliation for her husband questioning the president's claims over Iraq's
pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The CIA employee's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson says he suspects
the president's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, was involved in leaking
his wife's name to the media. Mr. Wilson says he does not know whether Mr. Rove
was the source of that information, but believes that the president's long-time
adviser condoned the action.
Mr. McClellan said the suggestion of Mr. Rove's involvement is ridiculous. "He
was not involved and that allegation is not true in terms of leaking classified
information, nor would he condone it," he said.
Some Republicans say Mr. Wilson's allegations are politically motivated as
campaigning heats up for next year's presidential election. Mr. McClellan said
he will not speculate on Mr. Wilson's motives, but said no one wants to get
to the bottom of this more than the president.
Ambassador Wilson, who spoke out against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, was
to have appeared Wednesday at a news conference with Democratic legislators,
but that event was canceled.
The allegations began in July after syndicated newspaper columnist Robert
Novak printed the CIA employee's name, which he said was given to him by two
senior administration officials.
In his newspaper column Wednesday, Mr. Novak writes that his role in the
affair has been distorted. He says he got the information during a broader
interview with administration officials and not as part of a planned leak.
Mr. Novak says the CIA did not say that disclosing Mr. Wilson's wife's name
would endanger her or anyone else at the CIA.
Intentionally disclosing a covert operative's name violates federal law and
is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.