CIA Operative In Leak
Drama Fears For Safety

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The former ambassador at the core of the White House leak controversy accused the Bush administration on Sunday of blowing his wife's CIA cover to muzzle criticism over the Iraq war and said they both now feared for her safety.
Joseph Wilson, a seasoned diplomat in both Republican and Democratic governments, said President Bush's top political aide Karl Rove, while likely not the source of the leak, later "gave legs" to a newspaper column that revealed his wife's identity as a CIA operative.
"I do have a number of people, or a person in whom I have a high degree of confidence, who has told me that Karl Rove told him that my wife is 'fair game', and that was one week after the leak," Wilson told CBS's "Face The Nation."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan last week denied Rove was behind the disclosure of Valerie Plame's name. Revealing classified information is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the alleged leak.
Wilson said it now appeared his wife's name was leaked by someone outside the White House, as an act of revenge to stop him and others from questioning the intelligence used to go to war with Iraq.
"This administration apparently decided the way to do that was to leak the name of my wife," he told NBC's "Meet The Press."
Wilson had questioned the president's State of the Union address in which Bush said Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Africa. Wilson went to Niger early in 2002 at the CIA's request to assess the uranium claim and said it was very doubtful.
Wilson said he and his wife, a specialist in unconventional weapons who worked overseas, were increasingly concerned she might be a target due to the disclosure and "as a consequence of that, have begun to rethink our own security posture."
The U.S. government had not offered any security measures, said Wilson, adding that a leading former CIA official had said his wife "was probably the single highest target of any possible terrorist organization or hostile intelligence service that might want to do damage."
The New York Times reported on Sunday Plame had "non-official cover," what the CIA calls a "Noc," the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create, often involving especially dangerous jobs.
Plame passed herself off as a private energy expert, working for a company that has been identified as Brewster Jennings and Associates, believed to be a CIA front company.
Jim Marcinkowski, an ex-CIA officer who called Plame the best shot in their class with an AK-47 rifle, told Time magazine her career as an undercover operative was over.
"She will no longer be safe traveling overseas," said Marcinkowski, who trained with Plame at Camp Peary, the Virginia school for CIA recruits. "I liken that to the knee-capping of an athlete."
With pressure mounting for answers over the leak, Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, said it was up to the president to get to the bottom of the story.
"The president should be asking some pretty tough questions, if he's not already," Hagel said on CBS. "My guess is that he is asking some tough questions. He needs to get a hold of this himself, call his chief of staff in, his national security adviser, the vice president and say 'OK, what do we have here? This is serious, I want it fixed."'
Wilson's wife's cover was blown in mid-July by syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who reiterated on Sunday he would not reveal his source for the story.
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