- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2003

White House employees yesterday were instructed to turn over to the Justice Department any documents that might shed light on whether the name of a CIA employee was improperly disclosed.

The staff, which had been told earlier to preserve such documents, was also warned that anything they reveal to White House lawyers is not protected by attorney-client confidentiality.

“The attorneys in the Office of the Counsel to the President are attorneys for the president in his official capacity and are not private attorneys for anyone,” wrote White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in his third memo to staff on the probe.

He explained that staffers who reveal information to government attorneys are not protected by the attorney-client privilege “when such communications are sought for a federal criminal investigation.”

Mr. Gonzales directed staffers to turn over pertinent documents by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The documents in question would have been created between Feb. 1, 2002, and Tuesday, when the probe got under way.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the staff will “absolutely” comply with the request.

“The president has directed everyone to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One. “We want to get to the bottom of this, the sooner the better.”

The Justice Department, which is requesting similar documents from employees of the State and Defense departments, is investigating whether administration officials improperly disclosed the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson. Democrats say her name was leaked to the press to punish her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, an outspoken critic of President Bush.

There were signs yesterday that the weeklong furor over the investigation was beginning to subside. When Mr. Bush allowed reporters to ask him several questions, they opted to cover other topics.

In addition, it became increasingly clear that aside from anonymously sourced press reports, there was no independent confirmation that the White House or any other agency improperly disclosed classified information. And the question of whether Mrs. Wilson was an undercover spy or an out-in-the-open analyst remained a topic of fierce debate.

Mrs. Wilson’s name was published in July by syndicated columnist Robert Novak and a few days later by a pair of reporters for a newspaper on Long Island, N.Y. Mr. Gonzales has specifically asked White House staffers for documents relating to contacts with these or any other journalists.

He also requested any documents relating to Mr. Wilson “or his wife’s purported relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency.” In addition, the request covers documents regarding Mr. Wilson’s trip to Niger in February 2002.

Mr. Wilson was dispatched there by the CIA to investigate whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African nation. He returned home empty-handed and accused Mr. Bush in a July 6 column in the New York Times of exaggerating the Iraqi threat in order to rationalize a military attack.

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