- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2005

The partisan fight over Karl Rove exploded onto the Senate floor yesterday, with Democrats trying to strip him of his security clearance and Republicans retaliating by trying to strip the chamber’s two top Democrats of theirs.

The moves, which came as amendments to a spending bill, both failed, but not before each side blamed the other for “juvenile” behavior and for poisoning a well of good feelings they said had existed in the past few weeks.

Some senators said the entire exercise was wrong.

“There might be a contest between which of these amendments is more poorly drafted,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, who voted against both amendments.

“We should not be doing this. This is exactly why the American public holds Congress in such low esteem right now,” said Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, who also opposed both.

Meanwhile, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, whose wife, Valerie Plame, and her identity as a cover CIA employee is the central issue, came to the Capitol to call for President Bush to fire Mr. Rove.

“I believe it is time for Karl Rove to go and time for this president to live up to his promises that anyone involved in this leak would be fired,” Mr. Wilson said during a press conference with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, steps away from the Senate floor.

Mr. Bush said in 2003 that he would fire whoever leaked the information about Mrs. Plame’s identity. Mr. Rove spoke to Time magazine’s Matt Cooper about Mr. Wilson’s wife, warning the reporter about Mr. Wilson’s false claim that he was sent to Niger by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Democrats have since called repeatedly for Mr. Rove to be fired or at least lose his security clearance as White House deputy chief of staff.

But Republicans said to wait for results from a special prosecutor who is investigating the case and could be considering charges of obstruction of justice or perjury.

A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an “undercover agent,” saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency’s headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.

“She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat,” Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.

“Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his friends knew this. A lot of blame could be put on to central cover staff and the agency because they weren’t minding the store here. … The agency never changed her cover status.”

Mr. Rustmann, who spent 20 of his 24 years in the agency under “nonofficial cover” — also known as a NOC, the same status as the wife of Mr. Wilson — also said that she worked under extremely light cover.

In addition, Mrs. Plame hadn’t been out as an NOC since 1997, when she returned from her last assignment, married Mr. Wilson and had twins, USA Today reported yesterday.

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