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Democrats Seek GAO Probe on Plame

Six top Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and White House hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), have asked the General Accounting Office to investigate whether the White House complied with internal security regulations in protecting the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose occupation was publicly revealed last summer.

The Democrats insisted that the GAO probe would not interfere with or compromise a criminal investigation of the Plame leak being conducted by the Justice Department. Time magazine reported last week that a DOJ special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has begun presenting evidence to a federal grand jury in his investigation and has told several White House employees that they may be called to testify. Plame’s husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a vocal critic of the prewar intelligence used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Democrats believe her outing was politically motivated.

“Our request is fundamentally different from an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice,” the Democrats wrote yesterday in their letter to GAO Comptroller General David Walker. “We are not asking GAO to assess whether any criminal statutes have been violated. Instead, we are requesting that GAO examine the separate — but equally important — question of whether the White House followed appropriate internal procedures for protecting Mrs. Plame’s identity from disclosure and for responding to the leak after it occurred.”

The Democrats cited as precedent a similar GAO review in 1998 of the Clinton White House following a request by several GOP lawmakers.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, and Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.) and Henry Waxman (Calif.) joined in the request.

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak publicly disclosed Plame’s identity in a July article. At the time, Novak said the information came from “two senior administration officials,” despite the fact that it is a federal crime to reveal the names of CIA operatives. A White House spokesman reaffirmed Bush’s commitment to cooperate with investigators.

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