Congress on Mideast, Plame Sues Cheney, Rove

Capitol Hill reacts to the growing violence in the Middle East, and Valerie Plame files a lawsuit top against White House officials, alleging they put Plame and her family at risk by revealing her identity as a CIA agent to reporters in order to discredit her husband, a critic of the Bush administration's war in Iraq.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

Here's an update on our lead story. There are reports from Beirut of more explosions as Israel continues its offensive against Hezbollah and civilian targets in Beirut, Lebanon.

Israel wants two captured soldiers released. Hezbollah has launched dozens of rockets into northern Israel.

BRAND: We're joined by NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams. He comes to us, every Friday, to talk politics.

Hi, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:

Hi, Madeleine. Hi, Alex.

CHADWICK: Hi, Juan.

BRAND: Well, what is Washington's reaction on Capitol Hill, the White House, to the situation in the Middle East?

WILLIAMS: There's great alarm, Madeleine. There's a sense of things being out of control. And the alarm is, I think, sort of exacerbated - if that's the right word - by the idea that there are more powerful rockets, the ability of people to strike at a distance, and quickly, than there ever have been in, you know, in previous encounters of this kind.

So what you have here, is a situation that could rapidly spin out of control. And there's concern that it really isn't just between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

I was talking to someone at State, this morning, who said, really, this is an opportunity for lots of bad actors - and here, they're talking about Syria, they're talking about Iran - to try to assert their hegemony in the region and to use surrogates - here, they're talking about Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Muslim group - to really do their bidding to try to thwart Israel at this juncture.

CHADWICK: Juan, another story from Washington, with action today: the alleged White House leak of the identity of the CIA analyst Valerie Plame. This morning she held a press conference announcing that she and her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, are filing a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, and presidential advisor Karl Rove, and others.

Here's some of what she said...

Ms. VALERIE PLAME (former CIA agent): I feel strongly, and justice demands, that those who acted so harmfully against our national security must answer for their shameful conduct in court.

CHADWICK: So, she's accusing Vice President Cheney of this. What's the - What's going on here?

WILLIAMS: Well, she's accusing Vice President Cheney. She's accusing Karl Rove, the president's top political advisor. She's accusing other White House officials of this, what she's called in the suit, a whispering campaign to destroy her career.

As you know, Alex, only Scooter Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, has been charged in this case. And he was charged with lying, not with revealing her identity. He was charged with lying to the grand jury.

So you now have Valerie Plame and her husband, the former ambassador Joe Wilson, making the claim that this was about retribution, intended to besmirch Wilson. Damage him. Because he had gone to Niger in, I believe it was, early 2002, to find out if there was any truth about Iraq seeking to make a deal to get uranium from Niger. He came back and said that that's not true.

And then, he felt - after he wrote this in the New York Times - that the administration was upset that it had hurt their chances to justify the case for going to war in Iraq.

BRAND: Juan, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, said he wasn't going to criminally prosecute Vice President Cheney. So what's the reaction from the vice president, to this civil lawsuit, and the reaction from Karl Rove?

WILLIAMS: Well, the vice president's office has said that, even without reviewing it, they think this is outrageous and has no merit. But what you have here is a situation where the vice president - people around the case think it may not even get to court, because the Supreme Court ruled in 19 - I believe it was - 82, Madeleine, that it's hard to sue the president or the vice president, especially in this kind of case, and especially since Valerie Plame was not fired. It was simply a matter of people talking about her and the story getting into Bob Novak's column. So, it may be the vice president is protected in terms of the execution of his duties.

CHADWICK: Well, it was in Bob Novak's column that this was first revealed, Juan, and he hasn't really said anything about this for a couple of years. And then this week, he finally wrote a column about it. I read it. I still didn't get it.

WILLIAMS: A lot of people felt that way. I must tell you, Alex, people at the White House are really angry - I watch my word there. But you know, like Karl Rove's people, you know, they didn't think that Novak had the right to be using Karl Rove's name in public. And of course, now it adds to this Valerie Plame lawsuit, and all that.

CHADWICK: He said in the column, that Rove had been a kind of a secondary source, not the primary source for this.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. He said that Karl Rove had confirmed that Plame was the - was a CIA agent at the time.

Now, Karl Rove says that the only thing he said to Novak was, I heard that, too.

Novak says that Rove said, I know that, too.

And Novak took that as confirmation and ran with it.

CHADWICK: Well, who knows where this is - this is eventually going to come out.

Thank you so much.

NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams, with us again on Friday.

Thanks, Juan.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome.

CHADWICK: And there's more coming up on DAY TO DAY.

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