WASHINGTON — Two Senate Democrats yesterday called on the U.S. Justice Department to explain why the White House has yet to turn over all materials relevant to the department’s investigation into the leak of the identity of a CIA operative (see GSN, Oct. 10).
Justice is currently investigating the leak of the identity and CIA status of the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson. In July, Wilson publicly criticized evidence offered by the Bush administration to justify the war with Iraq. Soon after, Wilson’s wife’s identity was made public in a column by Robert Novak, and Wilson has said that he believes the leak was intended as an intimidation tactic by the White House.
In a letter sent yesterday to John Dion, head of the Justice Department’s counterespionage section, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked for clarification as to the deadline given to the White House to turn over all relevant materials in the investigation. They cited reports of deadlines ranging from Oct. 10 to Oct. 17 and possibly even later.
“Given the president’s commitment to total cooperation with this investigation, any delay in disclosing evidence to the Department of Justice is difficult to understand. A serious national security breach appears to have been committed, reports have indicated that someone (or some people) within the White House is responsible, yet this investigation is moving at a snail’s pace,” Kennedy and Schumer wrote.
The two senators asked Dion to provide the original deadline set in the request for materials sent to the White House around Oct. 2 and to explain what, if any, changes were made to the original deadline and how those changes were determined. They also asked if the White House sought a delay in turning over relevant materials, and if so, what role senior Justice officials had in approving such a request.
In addition, Kennedy and Schumer also called on Dion to clarify the roles of senior department officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, in the investigation. Congressional Democrats have repeatedly called on Ashcroft to recuse himself from the investigation because of possible conflicts of interest.
The New York Times reported today that several senior Justice criminal prosecutors and top FBI officials have also privately criticized Ashcroft for failing to recuse himself from the investigation.
In their letter, Kennedy and Schumer once again called for the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation.
“Until the attorney general recuses himself from this investigation and a special prosecutor is appointed, all reports of apparent delays and unusual beneficial treatment of the White House will be looked upon by the public with great skepticism. The conflicts of interest run too deep for there to be public confidence in the integrity of this investigation, especially when it appears a serious national security breach is being treated with kid gloves,” Kennedy and Schumer wrote.