Air Force One records subpoenaed in CIA leak probe
White House says it's cooperating
From Kelli Arena
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's name subpoenaed a wide range of White House documents, including records of telephone calls from Air Force One and information relating to an internal working group dealing with Iraq, government sources confirmed to CNN on Friday.
"We are complying fully with the request from the Department of Justice," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Friday.
Three subpoenas were issued in January to the White House when the grand jury was beginning its investigation into who may have leaked the name of Valerie Plame to columnist and CNN host Robert Novak in July -- and whether the person or persons responsible broke the law. It is a federal crime to knowingly disclose the name of an undercover agent.
"Our counsel's office immediately sent a letter to White House staff, directing everyone to cooperate fully and comply with the request from those leading the investigation," McClellan said.
"No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States."
Government sources said the federal grand jury was seeking any information about contacts between White House officials and more than two dozen reporters and different media institutions. The grand jury also asked for a transcript of a briefing by former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and a list of those attending a birthday reception for former President Gerald Ford.
"These subpoenas are one indication that what we had hoped would happen with regard to the CIA leak probe is indeed happening -- that it will be a thorough and fearless investigation," Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said in a statement.
The subpoenaed information regarding telephone calls to and from Air Force One, sources said, covered July 7-12, while the president was on a trip to Africa. The requested transcript was from a briefing during that trip as well.
Newsday reported that two of the subpoenas dealt mostly with requests for information before and after the publication of Novak's July 14 column. During this time, a lot of questions were posed to the White House about former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who is married to Plame, and a trip the CIA asked him to take to look into allegations that Niger had provided uranium to Iraq.
Wilson concluded those allegations were not true. Wilson has said that he believes the leak was meant as White House retaliation for his report.
Many of the documents subpoenaed Friday relate to the White House Iraq Group, a little-known task force dedicated to dealing with Iraq. Newsweek reported that the group was created in August 2002 and charged with developing a strategy for publicizing the White House's assertion that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States.
The Newsweek report cites an earlier Washington Post article that lists senior political adviser Karl Rove, Bush advisers Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney among the group's members.
Previously, investigators from the Justice Department and the FBI had asked White House officials to provide a wide variety of information, including copies of e-mail messages and telephone logs for officials who had contact with reporters. That information was not subpoenaed and was provided to the White House counsel's office, which forwarded it to the investigators.
The grand jury, which met again Friday, has heard from at least four current or former White House officials. Much of its work recently has also reportedly been to pore over many documents relating to the case.