Officials confirmed that Mr. Tenet had asked the Justice Department to look into whether one or more administration officials had leaked information to the news media disclosing the identity of a covert C.I.A. agent. Mr. Tenet's request was first reported by NBC News.
The agent is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson 4th, a former ambassador to Gabon. It was Mr. Wilson who, more than a year and a half ago, concluded in a report to the C.I.A. that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium ore in Niger in an effort to build nuclear arms. But his report was ignored, and Ambassador Wilson has been highly critical of how the administration handled intelligence claims regarding Iraq's nuclear weapons programs, suggesting that Mr. Bush's aides and Vice President Dick Cheney's office tried to inflate the threat.
The very fact that Mr. Tenet referred the matter to the Justice Department comes as a major political embarrassment to a White House that is famously tight-lipped, and a president who has repeatedly vowed that his administration would never leak classified information. White House officials said today that they would cooperate in an investigation if the Justice Department decided that one was merited.
Wilson, the former acting ambassador to Iraq, became the focus of public scrutiny earlier this year when it was revealed that he was dispatched to Niger in the spring of 2002 to investigate a British intelligence report that said Iraq may have sought to purchase uranium for nuclear weapons from the African country.
He concluded at the time that the report was erroneous, but it still was included in Bush's January State of the Union address, a decision the White House later acknowledged was a mistake. Wilson has since been a vocal critic of the administration's Iraq policy, alleging that the White House revealed his wife's identity to deflect blame for the uranium gaffe to the CIA by suggesting that his wife, and by extension, the CIA, put him up for the Niger mission.Posted by tstubbs at September 29, 2003 01:53 PM | Trackback