Sunday, February 12, 2006

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called for the removal of Vice President Dick Cheney if he authorized his chief of staff to leak classified material or the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame.

“Scooter Libby testified to the grand jury that his superior ordered him to, or suggested that he leak the information to the press in order to discredit one of their political opponents,” Mr. Dean said yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If that happened at a time of war, the vice president cannot sit in the office he now occupies.”

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, has told a federal grand jury that he disclosed the contents of a July 2003 classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) as part of the Bush administration’s effort to justify the invasion of Iraq, documents released last week showed.

“Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose the information about the NIE to the press by his superiors,” wrote Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case.

Mr. Libby’s testimony was part of the investigation into who leaked the identity of Mrs. Plame, who is married to a harsh critic of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

“I don’t think the vice president has any credibility on national security whatsoever. I think he’s in deep trouble,” said Mr. Dean, who is a former governor of Vermont. “This vice president many not be vice president very much longer.”

Mrs. Plame’s name surfaced in press reports after her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, had become a vocal critic of President Bush and the war in Iraq based on a trip he had made to Africa in search of uranium that Saddam Hussein purportedly had tried to acquire.

The detailed indictment of Mr. Libby issued last year said that administration officials were frustrated that Mr. Wilson claimed to have been dispatched to Africa by the vice president’s office when, in fact, he had been sent because his wife, who held a desk job at the CIA, had recommended him.

Since being “outed,” Mrs. Plame has posed for photo spreads in glossy magazines even as her husband claimed her safety was threatened by the leak. She has since retired from the agency.

Mr. Dean also ticked off a list of priorities held by Democrats in Congress.

“One, we want honesty and openness back in government again,” he said.

“Two, we want a strong national defense, first of all, based on telling the truth to our citizens and our soldiers before we send troops abroad to defend America.”

Republican National Committee spokesman Brian Jones dismissed Mr. Dean’s comments.

“Chairman Dean delivered his signature mix of pessimistic and wild-eyed rhetoric today,” he said. “All the Democrat Party leader was able to offer were negative and baseless attacks and an agenda that the president and the Republican-led Congress are already enacting.”

Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said the claim warrants a full investigation.

“I don’t think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy,” he said yesterday on “Fox News Sunday.”

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