WASHINGTON – Former U.S. intelligence officers criticized President Bush on Friday for not disciplining Karl Rove (search) in connection with the leak of the name of a CIA officer, saying Bush's lack of action has jeopardized national security.
In a hearing held by Senate and House Democrats examining the implications of exposing Valerie Plame's (search) identity, the former intelligence officers said Bush's silence has hampered efforts to recruit informants to help the United States fight the War on Terror (search). Federal law forbids government officials from revealing the identity of an undercover intelligence officer.
"I wouldn't be here this morning if President Bush had done the one thing required of him as commander in chief — protect and defend the Constitution," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst. "The minute that Valerie Plame's identity was outed, he should have delivered a strict and strong message to his employees."
Rove, Bush's deputy chief of staff, told Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper (search) in a 2003 phone call that former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson's (search) wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction issues, according to an account by Cooper in the magazine. Rove has not disputed that he told Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for the agency, but has said through his lawyer that he did not mention her by name.
In July 2003, Robert Novak (search), citing unnamed administration officials, identified Plame by name in his syndicated column and wrote that she worked for the CIA. The column has led to a federal criminal investigation into who leaked Plame's undercover identity. New York Times reporter Judith Miller (search) — who never wrote a story about Plame — has been jailed for refusing to testify.
Bush said last week, "I think it's best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. And I will do so, as well."
Dana Perino, a White House spokesman, said Friday that the administration would have no comment on the investigation while it was continuing.
Patrick Lang, a retired Army colonel and defense intelligence officer, said Bush's silence sends a bad signal to foreigners who might be thinking of cooperating with the U.S. on intelligence matters.
"This says to them that if you decide to cooperate, someone will give you up, so you don't do it," Lang said. "They are not going to trust you in any way."
Johnson, who said he is a registered Republican, said he wished a GOP lawmaker would have the courage to stand up and "call the ugly dog the ugly dog."
"Where are these men and women with any integrity to speak out against this?" Johnson asked. "I expect better behavior out of Republicans."