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President quizzed on leak of CIA agent's name

London Independent | June 25 2004

President Bush, accompanied by his personal lawyer, was yesterday questioned for more than an hour by investigators probing the leaking, by the White House, of the identity an undercover CIA operative.

His spokesman confirmed that Mr Bush was questioned in the Oval Office by Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney heading the inquiry into the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame last summer.

Ms Plame is the wife of former ambassador, Joe Wilson, and the White House is accused of acting out of revenge after Mr Wilson revealed that one of the administration's claims about Iraq's efforts to develop WMD was false.

The leaking of a covert operative's identity is a federal offence and Mr Bush has always publicly said he wants his staff to cooperate fully.

"The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter," said his spokesman Scott McClellan. "He was pleased to do his part. No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States."

Asked if Mr Bush had answered every question, Mr McClellan said: "The president was glad to do his part to cooperate with the investigation. The president was pleased to share whatever information he had with the officials in charge and answer their questions."

President Bush, questioned for 70 minutes, recently hired criminal lawyer Jim Sharp after investigators made clear they wished to speak with him. They have also questioned his deputy, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Ms Plame's identity was made public by right-wing newspaper columnist Robert Novak who said he had been given the information by "two senior administration officials". Mr Wilson believes that someone from Mr Cheney's office was responsible for the leak, possibly his chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby.