Officials: Most in White House meet leak probe deadline
Bush: 'I want to know the truth'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- All but a few White House staffers met a deadline Tuesday to turn over to the White House counsel any documents that may be pertinent to an investigation seeking those responsible for leaking the name of an undercover CIA employee, senior Bush administration officials said.
Under orders from the White House counsel's office, employees were to search their records and turn in all potentially relevant documents -- including e-mail messages and phone logs -- to that office by the 5 p.m. deadline, or sign a form saying they have none. Senior administration officials said the only staffers who didn't meet the deadline were those who are traveling or who have extenuating circumstances.
Journalist Robert Novak has said two senior administration officials gave him information about CIA operative Valerie Plame, which he then reported in a July 14 column.
A senior official familiar with efforts to comply with the deadline set by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales said compliance was "substantially complete."
Officials declined to specify the number who have yet to comply, but one said it was modest.
Meanwhile, government and administration sources said the FBI has begun to contact some White House officials to schedule interviews with them as part of the investigation.
The Justice Department deadline for surrendering the documents is two weeks away, but Gonzales wanted White House staffers to get the documents to him by the end of the business day Tuesday. His office now will review them before turning them over to investigators. The White House calls that standard procedure, but some Democrats suggest it allows Gonzales to potentially keep track of damaging information.
Officials said the White House is not expected to invoke executive privilege to keep certain records confidential, but they would not rule it out.
Earlier Tuesday, President Bush said he hoped the source of the leak would be found quickly, but he also expressed doubts.
Bush spoke several hours before the deadline.
"I want to know the truth," the president told reporters after a meeting with his Cabinet. "I want to see to it that the truth prevails."
But, he added, "This is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the 'senior administration official.' "
FBI interviews Plame
Meanwhile, FBI agents have interviewed Plame, government sources confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.
The sources would not say when she was interviewed.
Christopher Wolf, a lawyer representing Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, said the couple are "actively considering" a civil lawsuit because of what he described as damage done to them by the leak.
Wilson said Sunday that he and his wife are concerned about their personal security now that she has been revealed as a CIA employee.
"We are evaluating the situation carefully and have made no decisions," Wolf said. Discussions are in the "early stages" and action is not likely soon, he said. Wolf would not name any potential plaintiffs.
Wilson said he believes the leak came from the White House as retaliation for a report he had released.
In 2002, at the CIA's request, Wilson investigated a report that Iraq had attempted to obtain uranium from Niger. President Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003 included that assertion, which was credited to British intelligence data. Wilson concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation. (Full story)
His disclosure of that mission, in a New York Times article in early July, helped fuel questions about whether the administration had exaggerated the threat from Iraq to build support for the U.S.-led invasion of the country in March. The White House later said that Bush's address should not have included the assertion.
Wilson has said reporters told him that after Novak's article came out, someone at the White House called them and said Wilson's wife was "fair game."
Bush was asked by CNN if he is asking his staff whether anyone would do that -- and whether it would be wrong. Bush responded, "The investigators will ask our staff about what people did or did not do. This is a town ... where a lot of people leak, and I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it would be fine for officials to talk to the media in the hope of "setting the record straight" but never to "punish someone for speaking out or trying to retaliate against someone.
"That is absurd to suggest that the White House would do," McClellan said. "We would not condone that kind of activity."
Monday, Bush called the investigation "a criminal matter" and said he expected all aides to cooperate fully and in a timely manner. He also voiced confidence that the Justice Department "will do a good, thorough job."(Full story)
Democrats have called for a special prosecutor, saying it would ensure more independence in the investigation. (Full story)
The White House notice sent to employees Friday said the documents at issue include any created between February 1, 2002, and September 30, 2003, that "relate in any way" to Wilson's trip to Niger in February 2002 "or his wife's purported relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency;" those that relate to contact with a member of the news media about Wilson or his wife; and those that relate to contact with three reporters, including Novak.
CNN senior White House correspondent John King contributed to this report.