July 14, 2005

CIA agent’s husband says Rove pushed Plame story

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The husband of a CIA agent whose
identity was exposed during the fierce debate over the Iraq war
accused the White House on Thursday of being involved in a
giant "cover-up" involving top aide Karl Rove.

Federal investigators are looking into who leaked the
identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose name appeared
in a newspaper column by journalist Robert Novak exactly two
years ago, on July 14, 2003. Rove, who orchestrated Bush's
presidential campaigns, has emerged as a source for at least
one other media report on the case.

"What this thing has been for the past two years has been a
cover-up, a cover-up of the ... web of lies that underpin the
justification for going to war in Iraq," said Plame's husband,
Joseph Wilson, a career foreign service officer who served in
the Clinton White House.

"And to a certain extent, this cover-up is becoming
unraveled. That's why you see the White House stonewalling,"
Wilson told NBC's "Today" show.

Wilson charged in another interview that Rove was actively
promoting Novak's story about Plame in 2003, saying the White
House deputy chief of staff declared Wilson's wife "fair game"
in a telephone conversation with Chris Matthews, the host of
NBC's political affairs program, "Hardball."

"He (Matthews) called me up as soon as he got off the
phone," Wilson told CNN. "He called me up and he said: 'I just
got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says your wife is fair
game'. I know that Karl Rove was, in fact, engaged in pushing
the Novak story."

Bush, whose approval ratings have fallen in recent months,
has had no public words of support for his longtime adviser. He
said he would withhold judgment and ordered his staff to
cooperate with investigators.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, traveling with Bush
to Indiana, declined to comment on Wilson's charges. "We'll let
the investigation continue and come to a conclusion," he said.

It is a federal offense to knowingly reveal the identity of
a U.S. undercover agent, and Bush said in 2003 he would fire
whoever leaked the classified information about Plame. The
special prosecutor investigating the case could also be
considering charges of obstruction of justice or perjury.

Wilson, who briefly served as an adviser to the campaign of
Bush's 2004 presidential opponent, Sen. John Kerry, but also
served in the first Bush administration, added his voice to
Democrats calling for Rove to be fired.

Wilson has said repeatedly the leak was aimed at
discrediting him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy in 2003,
after a CIA-funded trip in 2002 to investigate whether Niger
helped supply nuclear materials to Baghdad.


Rove was named by a Time magazine reporter as a source who
identified the agent.

While Bush has declined to come to Rove's defense publicly,
he showed some support on Thursday, walking side by side with
Rove from the Oval Office to his helicopter en route to
Indiana. The two men chatted and smiled.

About 100 protesters picketed outside the White House
later, chanting "Hey, hey, ho ho, Karl Rove has got to go."
They were organized by the liberal group MoveOn.org, which
provided signs that read: "Stop the Cover-up: Fire Karl Rove."

On Capitol Hill, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi
renewed the call for congressional hearings on the case.

"Today is the two-year anniversary of the printing of the
article in the newspaper," Pelosi said. "For two years I
believe that this White House has not fully cooperated in the

Democrats in the Republican-led Senate proposed an
amendment to a homeland security bill to strip any federal
employee who disclosed classified information, including the
identity of a covert CIA agent, of their access to sensitive
information. The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote,

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed the
percentage of Americans who believed Bush was "honest and
straightforward" fell to 41 percent from 50 percent in January,
and those who said they doubted his veracity climbed to 45
percent from 36 percent.

Democratic National Committee chief Howard Dean said he
thought the president was losing credibility over Rove.

"The president must demonstrate that he values protecting
CIA operatives fighting on the front lines in the war on terror
over protecting his political operatives," said Dean.

The Republican National Committee countered with a list of
what it said were Wilson's "Top Ten worst inaccuracies and
misstatements," ranging from claims he was victim of a partisan
smear campaign to information about his Niger visit.

Plame returned to the CIA this month after a year's absence
and Wilson said his family had not enjoyed the attention
brought by the case. The couple has 5-year-old twins.

The case led to the jailing last week of New York Times
reporter Judith Miller, who refused to testify about sources
she spoke to on the story.

Time reporter Matt Cooper avoided the same fate after Rove
waived their agreement to keep his comments confidential.
Cooper testified before the investigating grand jury on
Wednesday. (Additional reporting by Patricia Wilson, Susan
Cornwell and Richard Cowan in Washington and Adam Entous in