- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 6, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Investigators questioned Vice President Dick Cheney recently in the probe of who in the Bush administration leaked the name of a covert CIA operative last year, a source familiar with the investigation said yesterday.

The interview with the vice president follows an acknowledgment by President Bush that he has consulted with a private attorney regarding the probe, indicating that Mr. Bush also expects to be questioned.

A federal grand jury in recent months has questioned numerous White House and administration officials to learn who revealed the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, to the press.

Disclosure of an undercover officer’s identity can be a federal crime.

Mr. Cheney’s office said earlier this week that if the vice president were to seek counsel on any issue, he would turn to Terrence O’Donnell, a senior partner in the Washington law firm of Williams & Connelly. Mr. Cheney has consulted with Mr. O’Donnell for years.

“Given the fact that there is an ongoing investigation, it is appropriate to refer requests for comment to the Office of Special Counsel,” Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems said.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, whose office declined to comment, was chosen to run the investigation in late December after Attorney General John Ashcroft disqualified himself from the politically sensitive case to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.

Mr. Cheney was not under oath when he was questioned, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation involves a criminal matter. The source did not know what Mr. Cheney said, what he was asked or whether he had an attorney present. But the central issue of the investigation is who disclosed Mrs. Plame’s name.

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed Mrs. Plame’s work for the CIA a week after Mr. Wilson publicly criticized Mr. Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium yellowcake from the African nation of Niger.

Mr. Wilson had earlier been sent to Niger by the CIA to check out the accusation and concluded it was unfounded. Mr. Bush stated subsequently in his State of the Union address that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa.

Mr. Wilson says revealing his wife’s name was an attempt to discredit him. In printing Mrs. Plame’s name, Mr. Novak wrote that two administration officials said the ambassador’s wife suggested sending him on the Niger trip.

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