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Dems Jump On Libby Intel Leak

Congressional Democrats have moved quickly to capitalize on Scooter Libby's claim that President Bush authorized him to leak sensitive intelligence about Iraq to the New York Times.

Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide made the claim in grand jury testimony, according to court papers filed by prosecutors in the CIA leak case. The filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald also describes Cheney involvement in I. Lewis Libby's communications with the press.

"In light of today's shocking revelation, President Bush must
fully disclose his participation in the selective leaking of
classified information," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"If the disclosure is true, it's breathtaking. The president is the leaker-in-chief," added Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

There was no indication in the filing that either Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame's CIA identity. But it points to Cheney as one of the originators of the idea that Plame could be used to discredit her husband, Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson.

Read the official court documents.
The disclosure also put the president and the vice president in the awkward position of authorizing leaks. Both men have long said they abhor such practices, so much so that the administration has put in motion criminal investigations at their behest to hunt down leakers.

In September 2003 during a speech in Chicago, Mr. Bush said of the Libby investigation, "Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks.

"And if there is a leak out of my administration," Mr. Bush said, "I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

The most recent instance of denouncing the practice is the administration's launching of a probe into who disclosed to The New York Times the existence of the warrantless domestic surveillance program.

The green light Libby claims he was given led to a July 8, 2003, conversation between Libby and New York Times reporter Judith Miller. In that meeting, Libby made reference to the fact that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Cheney, in conversation with Libby, raised the question of whether a CIA-sponsored trip by Wilson "was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife."

Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said the White House would have no comment on the ongoing investigation. At a congressional hearing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the president has the "inherent authority to decide who should have classified information."

Libby is asking for voluminous amounts of classified information from the government in order to defend himself against five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI in the Plame affair.

He is accused of making false statements about how he learned of Plame's CIA employment and what he told reporters about it.