White House Press Briefing, July 22, 2003
Q The Robert Novak column last week identified the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Joseph C. Wilson IV) as a CIA operative who was working on WMD issues. Novak said that identification is based on information given to him by two administration sources. That column has now given rise to accusations that the administration deliberatively blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative, and in so doing, violated a federal law that prohibits revealing the identity of undercover CIA operatives. Can you respond to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up. That is not the way this President or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step.
Q So you're saying --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying that that is not the way that this President or this White House operates, and I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it.
Q Are you saying Novak was wrong in saying that it was two administration sources who were the source for --
MR. McCLELLAN: I have no idea who "anonymous" is. I often wish --
Q It's not anonymous. He says senior administration officials.
MR. McCLELLAN: That would be anonymous.
Q Well, that would be senior administration --
Q Like the guy who briefed us last week?
MR. McCLELLAN: Whether it's anonymous senior administration officials or just anonymous sources, it's still anonymous.
Q Is Novak lying? Do you think he's making it up?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you our position. I'll let the columnist speak for himself.
Q You're saying, flatly, it did not happen, nobody --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you, flatly, that that is not the way this White House operates. I've seen no evidence to suggest that there's any truth to that.
Q That's different from saying it didn't happen. Are you saying, absolutely, it did not happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying no one was certainly given any authority to do anything of that nature. And I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it. I want to make it very clear, that is simply not the way this White House operates.
Q If it turns out that somebody in the administration did do that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not even going to speculate about it, because I have no knowledge of any truth to that report.
Q What's the extent of your knowledge? Don't you want to get some more facts? I mean, how do you know that no one in the administration -- Robert Novak has been around for a long --
MR. McCLELLAN: If I could go find "anonymous," Terry, I would.
Q Does the President support a criminal investigation --
Q Can you come back to the Ambassador Wilson issue for a second. As Ken suggested, it appears as though a federal crime may have been committed. Would the President support an investigation into the blowing of the cover of an undercover CIA operative?
MR. MCCLELLAN: John, I think that's suggesting that there might be some truth to the matter you're bringing up. I have seen nothing -- I have seen nothing to suggest that there is any truth to it. And certainly I want to make very clear --
Q Somebody told --
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- that no one, no one in this White House would be authorized to take such a step.
Q Right. But somebody blew her cover. And would the White House support an investigation into that?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I'd have to look into the specifics about whether or not that characterization is accurate when you're talking about someone's cover. But let me make it very clear, that's just not the way this White House operates.
Q Could you look into it?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry. I'll be available later.
[END of Press Briefing].