Former U.S. intelligence officers criticized President Bush this afternoon for not disciplining Karl Rove in connection with the leak of the name of a CIA officer, saying Bush’s lack of action has jeopardized national security.
In a hearing held by Senate and House Democrats examining the implications of exposing Valerie Plame’s identity, the former intelligence officers said Bush’s silence has hampered efforts to recruit informants to help the United States fight the war on terror. Federal law forbids government officials from revealing the identity of an undercover intelligence officer.
“I wouldn’t be here this morning if President Bush had done the one thing required of him as commander in chief — protect and defend the Constitution,” said Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst, as quoted by the Associated Press. “The minute that Valerie Plame’s identity was outed, he should have delivered a strict and strong message to his employees.”
Rove, Bush’s deputy chief of staff, told Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in a 2003 phone call that former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction issues, according to an account by Cooper in the magazine. Rove has not disputed that he told Cooper that Wilson’s wife worked for the agency, but has said through his lawyer that he did not mention her by name.
In July 2003, Robert Novak, citing unnamed administration officials, identified Plame by name in his syndicated column and wrote that she worked for the CIA. The column has led to a federal criminal investigation into who leaked Plame’s undercover identity.
Patrick Lang, a retired Army colonel and defense intelligence officer, said Bush’s silence sends a bad signal to foreigners who might be thinking of cooperating with the U.S. on intelligence matters.
“This says to them that if you decide to cooperate, someone will give you up, so you don’t do it,” Lang said. “They are not going to trust you in any way.”
Johnson, who said he is a registered Republican, said he wished a GOP lawmaker would have the courage to stand up and “call the ugly dog the ugly dog.”
“Where are these men and women with any integrity to speak out against this?” Johnson asked. “I expect better behavior out of Republicans.”
The testimony today came from the same 11 former officers who provided a July 20 statement to congressional leaders, in which the officers said the Republican National Committee has circulated talking points that incorrectly stated that Plame was not undercover when her name was leaked to the press, and thus did not deserve protection.
The hearing was called by Democrats in an effort to return public attention to Rove and any role he had in disclosing Plame’s identity. It was conducted by by Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking minority member of the House Government Reform Committee.
Democrats contend they have to hold their own unofficial hearing because the Republican leadership of the House and Senate refuses to conduct an official inquiry into whether the Bush White House leaked information about Plame in an attempt to discredit her husband.
“That’s really unfortunate that it has come to that, because when the national security of our country can be affected … the Congress should act in a bipartisan way to get to the bottom of the matter,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters.
“People think this is a political game of gotcha,” Dorgan said, according to Cox News Service. “It is not that at all. These issues are life and death.”
This article first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.