US Senate debates Rove and intelligence access

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Friday, July 15, 2005

GOP Senators voted down an amendment "To protect classified information and to protect our servicemen and women.", attached to a "Department of Homeland Security Appropriations" Bill. The amendment would have revoked access to classified information from federal employees who disclose the information to unauthorized sources. This followed an attempt by Democratic Senators to strip White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove of his security clearance.

The amendment comes as George W. Bush declined to reaffirm his pledge to fire any official involved in the leaking of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame after documents subpoenaed by the U.S. Supreme Court named his chief advisor Karl Rove as a source of the leak.

In a press briefing on September 29th, 2004, White House spokesman Scott McClellan, in response to the question "Scott, has anyone — has the president tried to find out who outed the CIA agent? And has he fired anyone in the White House yet?", stated that "The president has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration." [1] The next day, in a meeting with business people, George W. Bush said that "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action." [2] The New York Times [3] and The Washington Post [4] however, misrepresented Bush's promise as a promise to fire only those administration officials who "knowingly" or "illegally" disclosed Plame's identity.

In a press conference this Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked if the president stood by his statements made in September 2003, in light of recent evidence that Karl Rove was involved in the leak. Scott McClellan declined to reaffirm this policy, citing an ongoing investigation.

Pressed to explain its statements of two years ago that Rove wasn't involved in the leak, the White House refused to do so.

"If I were to get into discussing this, I would be getting into discussing an investigation that continues and could be prejudging the outcome of the investigation," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The statements made by Scott McClellan two years ago were made during the investigation that continues and may have prejudiced the outcome of the investigation. When reporters asked McClellan to explain this inconsistency, McClellan gave the same response. When asked if the Administration was told not to discuss the investigation while it was ongoing after he claimed that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak, and not before, Scott McClellan gave the same response. [5]

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada added this amendment to the Bill:

"No federal employee who discloses or has disclosed classified information, including the identity of a covert agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, to a person not authorized to receive such information shall be entitled to hold a security clearance for access to such information."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., amended the amendment:

"...or any federal officeholder who makes reference to a classified Federal Bureau of Investigation report on the floor of the United States Senate, or any federal officeholder that makes a statement based on a FBI agent¹s comments which is used as propaganda by terrorist organizations thereby putting our servicemen and women at risk, shall not be permitted access to such information or to hold a security clearance for access to such information."

The first part of this amendment was in response to Joe Wilson's correction of George W. Bush's representation of his and his associates' intelligence assessment regarding uranium in Niger. The second was in response to recent criticism of the treatment of prisoners in detention facilities operated by the United States, most notably at Guantanamo Bay by officials including Senator Richard Durbin.

The Republican-controlled Senate ultimately voted down both amendments on July 14th.

House Representative Rush Holt, D-N.J., has introduced legislation for an investigation that would compel senior administration officials to turn over records relating to the Plame disclosure.

Sources

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