Mon, Oct 17, 2005 - Page 1 News List

White House was worried about rogue CIA group: reporter

AFP , WASHINGTON

A new account of the CIA leak scandal rocking the White House suggests top US presidential aides were seriously concerned about a dissident faction inside the US spy agency that appeared to work even behind the back of the CIA director to debunk the notion Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

The first-hand account, delivered yesterday by Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter at the center of the leak story, cast a new light on the byzantine world of Washington politics rife with political intrigue, backstabbing and career-ruining retribution for expressing an opposing view.

Miller spent 58 days in jail earlier this year for refusing to talk to a special prosecutor about her three 2003 interviews with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, whose name is often mentioned in connection with the illegal leaking to the media of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Her name was first disclosed in July 2003 by conservative columnist Robert Novak following her husband Joseph Wilson's mission to Niger the previous year, during which the former US ambassador to that African nation tried to verify reports that Iraq was secretly trying to purchase uranium ore there.

After failing to find any evidence of that, Wilson wrote a newspaper article, in which he accused the Bush administration of "exaggerating the Iraqi threat" in order to justify the war.

Miller said the article "appeared to have agitated Mr. Libby," who referred to Wilson as a "clandestine guy."

He added that the CIA "took it upon itself to try and figure out more" about the uranium allegations without informing either the White House or its own director, the journalist recalled.

All in all, Libby was concerned the CIA was engaged in a "perverted war" over the war in Iraq and resorted to "selective leaking" of information to drive its point home, according to the report.

He believed the CIA was "backpedaling on the intelligence leading to war," Miller said.

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