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Pelosi Calls for Congressional Investigation Into Alleged White House Leak of CIA Operative Name

Aired September 30, 2003 - 14:29   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Little breaking news, let's go to Capitol Hill. Nancy Pelosi now calling for a Congressional investigation into the leak at the White House. Let's listen.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Given allegations about the involvement of senior White House officials and the past close association between the attorney general and one of those officials, the investigation should be headed by a person independent of the administration.

If there was ever a case for an appointment of a special counsel, this is it.

With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions you may have.

QUESTION: Mr. DeLay said today, when asked about this, he said, "Surprise, surprise, they're calling for a special counsel. My goodness, it must be in their political handbooks, in their campaign handbook."

So he's charging you with playing politics with this. What's your response to that?

PELOSI: As I said, as a 10-year member of the Intelligence Committee and one who respects and appreciates the patriotism, the courage and the sacrifice that clandestine officers are willing to make for our country, I think those kinds of accusations are pathetic.

QUESTION: As far as I know the charges really haven't been substantiated. Is it premature to call for a special counsel now? And what connections between Mr. Rove and the attorney general are you alleging?

PELOSI: First, in terms of substantiation, the name of the clandestine officer has already been -- has already appeared in the newspaper. And there has -- it came from the White House. We know that. But that would be the role of the special counsel, to investigate and to prosecute, if necessary, those who would be responsible for disclosing the name of a clandestine officer.

The second part of your question was what was I referring to?

QUESTION: This connection to Karl Rove and the attorney general? PELOSI: I was referring to press reports, and you know better than I how reliable press reports are, press reports of an association between Mr. Karl Rove and Attorney General Ashcroft, a political connection in terms of Mr. Rove's company doing the direct mail for Mr. Ashcroft earlier on and vouching for him to the Bush administration later on.

QUESTION: And the implication is that?

PELOSI: That there should be a special counsel independent of the administration to investigate when there is an association with the administration, and of course, the Justice Department has that association and that is a fact, but beyond that, if there's an association personally that I believe that would justify calling for a special counsel.

Remember, this is a matter of the utmost seriousness. It is about nothing less than our national security. It's about nothing less than protecting people who risk their lives for us. They are patriots. We express our appreciation to them and for their work on as many occasions as possible when they come before our committee, when I was on the committee, and I know it continues to this day, or when we visit the agency or any part of the intelligence community.

So this is -- let me say, disclosing sources of methods is the reason why some information has not been placed in the public domain, because you don't want to jeopardize sources and methods. So if that's important, then why would the administration, why would the White House not understand how dangerous this is to the clandestine officers and the chilling effect it has on recruitment and retainment -- retention of clandestine officers.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: During the Clinton administration, the Republicans called for special counsels on several issues and Democrats always said that they weren't needed. What's the difference between now and then?

PELOSI: Well, I think it's very different now in terms of the seriousness of the matter before us. Right now, again, we're talking about our national security. We're talking about patriotic Americans who risk their lives every day for us.

We're talking about the investment that we make in clandestine officers over the years, in the contacts that they make, and the work that they do for our country. Not only have we jeopardized the officer, but any person that that officer may have come into contact with.

Again, this is of the utmost seriousness. One would have to wonder why anybody would want to do such a thing. It's so blatantly and clearly wrong and dangerous.

O'BRIEN: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the allegation that senior administration officials leaked the name of a CIA operative to discredit an ambassador who had been investigating some pre-war claims of Saddam Hussein involved in procuring some enriched uranium.

In any case, the call for a special prosecutor, we should just point out, independent counsel is gone. That was struck down in 1999. Independent counsel set up post-Watergate. Ken Starr was the last of that. Special prosecutors, however, are afforded by the Constitution and she is calling for just that. We'll keep you posted as that unfolds on Capitol Hill.


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