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Inside Politics

White House won't rule out polygraphs

Meeting canceled between Democrats, CIA officer's husband


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Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey says leakers are rarely caught.
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The White House sees no need for an internal review into the leaking of a CIA operative's name.
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CNN's Robert Novak explains his article citing the name of a CIA operative.
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CIA TERMS

Operative: A CIA employee who gathers intelligence covertly, either in the field or from agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The CIA calls the job "clandestine services officer."

Agent: Usually a foreign national contracted to gather intelligence in the field for the CIA.

Analyst: A CIA employee who evaluates intelligence gathered by operatives and agents; it's not a covert position.

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House pledged full cooperation Wednesday with a Justice Department probe into the leak of a CIA operative's name and has followed proper procedures so far, a spokesman told reporters Wednesday.

Press secretary Scott McClellan strongly intimated that President Bush would expect White House aides to take polygraph examinations if the Justice Department asked for them.

"Full cooperation is full cooperation," McClellan said.

All White House employees have been instructed to preserve documents dating to February 2002 that could be relevant to the investigation.

Meanwhile, a meeting scheduled for Wednesday between retired diplomat Joseph Wilson, husband of the CIA operative, and congressional Democrats was canceled out of concern it would undermine his credibility and lead to allegations of political opportunism, Democratic aides said.

Wilson has accused administration officials of leaking the name and occupation of his wife, Valerie Plame, to a journalist in retaliation for an op-ed piece he wrote in The New York Times that implied the administration overstated the threat posed by Iraq before the war. (Full story)

Syndicated columnist and CNN contributor Robert Novak identified Plame by name in a July article as a CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction, citing two senior administration officials.

Novak told CNN Wednesday he would not have printed Plame's name if he knew it would have put her in danger.

He said he and all journalists are routinely asked to withhold stories or names and the CIA made a "weak" request to keep Plame's name out of print.

He said he is still uncertain about Plame's role with the CIA and described her as an "operative" without knowing her role. Novak said he often uses the term "operative" to describe people in his political column.

Sources told CNN said Plame is not an analyst, but a CIA operations officer. She was an active overseas undercover officer for many years and more recently has been working at a management level within the operations section of the CIA, the sources said.

Wilson, who was acting ambassador to Iraq before the Persian Gulf War and later ambassador to Gabon, said the leak was intended to punish him and deter other critics from coming forward with similar accusations on Iraq policy, an allegation administration officials have denied. (Full story)

McClellan said Wednesday the White House has nothing to hide. He said no one has been asked to sit for an interview with investigators, nor has anyone come forward to admit to revealing Plame's identity.

Democrats in Washington raised their voices almost in unison to call for a special counsel to investigate the leak. (Full story) But Bush said he believes the Justice Department can do the job. (Full story)

Ronald Kessler, author of several books on the CIA, said he did not believe the investigation would determine who leaked Plame's CIA role.

"Over the years, maybe one person has been uncovered by the FBI, and that was really a matter of luck," said Kessler, whose most recent book is "The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror."

"And actually, the CIA reports roughly once a week compromises of classified information leaks to the Justice Department. They're required to do that.

"It just so happened that I understand the Democrats on the Hill leaked the fact that this report had been made about this particular situation."

The furor began with a July 14 column by Novak, who had been trying to find out why the CIA sent Wilson to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had tried to buy "yellowcake" -- uranium ore -- from the African nation, as British intelligence reported.

Wilson, who was posted to Niger early in his 22-year diplomatic career and was director of African affairs at the National Security Council late in the Clinton administration, reported back to the CIA he could find no evidence to prove the British intelligence.

Novak said that in the course of his news gathering administration officials told him Wilson was sent to Niger at the suggestion of his wife, whom he was told worked for the CIA. (Full story)

Sources told CNN that as many as six journalists besides Novak may have been given the information on Plame. The Washington Post reported Sunday that a senior administration official said two top White House officials made at least six calls to journalists and identified Plame.

Late Tuesday, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales issued a memo instructing White House staffers to preserve all documents, e-mails, telephone records and other items from February 1, 2002, to the present that involve Wilson, his trip and his wife's "purported relationship to the Central Intelligence Agency."

Penalties for revealing the identity of a covert agent range from five to 10 years in prison and fines from $25,000 to $50,000.

CNN's Jonathan Karl and John King contributed to this report.


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