· Vice-president told to put out classified information
· No instruction to out CIA agent, says president
Thursday July 6, 2006
President George Bush directed his vice-president, Dick Cheney, to take
personal charge of a campaign to discredit a former ambassador who had
accused the administration of twisting prewar intelligence on Iraq, it emerged
The revelation by the National Journal, a respected weekly political magazine,
that Mr Bush took a personal interest in countering damaging allegations by
the former ambassador, Joe Wilson, reveals a White House that was
extraordinarily sensitive to any criticism of its prewar planning. It also
returns the focus of the criminal investigation into the outing of a CIA
agent to the White House only weeks after the senior aide Karl Rove
was told he would not face prosecution.
The Journal said Mr Bush made the admission in a July 24 2004 interview
in the Oval Office with the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who is
leading the investigation into the outing of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame.
Ms Plame is married to Mr Wilson, who says her cover was broken in
retaliation after he accused the administration of knowingly using false
information on Saddam Hussein's weapons programme.
According to the National Journal, Mr Bush told prosecutors he directed
Mr Cheney to disclose classified information both to defend his administration
and to discredit Mr Wilson.
Elsewhere, the magazine quotes other government officials as saying that
Mr Bush was very anxious to use classified information to counter Mr Wilson's
charges, telling the vice-president: "Let's get this out."
However, the president told investigators that he never directed anyone to
disclose Ms Plame's identity. He also said that he was unaware Mr Cheney
had directed his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to covertly leak the
information, rather than formally declassify it.
Mr Libby faces prosecution for lying to investigators about his role in the
outing of Ms Plame.
There was no immediate comment from the White House. The office of the
special prosecutor also declined to comment yesterday.
The revelation that Mr Bush instructed Mr Cheney to personally oversee the
campaign to discredit Mr Wilson arrives at an inconvenient time for a White
House vehement in criticising leaks.
Last month it condemned as "disgraceful" a report in the New York Times
that agents from the CIA and treasury departments had been secretly monitoring
international wire transfers without court oversight.