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Grand jury probes CIA leak

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
White House
John Ashcroft
Robert Novak

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal grand jury has begun hearing testimony in a probe to discover who leaked the identity of a former CIA operative, government sources told CNN Thursday.

The leak revealed the identity of Valerie Plame, wife of retired career diplomat Joseph Wilson, who accused White House officials of leaking his wife's name to punish him and intimidate others after he wrote an op-ed article critical of the administration's handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq. Administration officials have disputed the allegation.

Plame's identity was leaked to journalists, including syndicated columnist and CNN commentator Robert Novak.

Novak published it last July in a column in the Chicago Sun Times about the controversy over claims Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Novak said he learned of Plame's CIA connection from "two senior administration officials."

The FBI and Justice Department are investigating into who leaked Plame's identity. Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the probe. (Full story)

A group of former intelligence officers, dissatisfied with the Justice Department probe, has sent congressional leaders a letter asking that Congress immediately begin its own investigation.

It is a federal crime to leak the name of a covert CIA agent.

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