Oct. 6, 2003. 01:00 AM
CIA operative fears for her safety
WASHINGTON—The former ambassador at the core of the White House leak controversy accused the Bush administration yesterday 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 U.S. President George W. 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 U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into the 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 Bush'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.
The U.S. government had not offered any security measures, said Wilson, adding that a former leading 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."
Yesterday, The New York Times reported 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.
Plame's cover was blown in mid-July by syndicated columnist Robert Novak,
who reiterated yesterday he would not reveal his source for the story.
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