Top Bush Official Reveals White House Never Investigated Plame Leak

Dr. James Knodell, director of the Office of Security at the White House, revealed today that to his knowledge the White House has never ordered a probe, report, or sanctions as a result of the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. “I have no knowledge of any investigation in my office,” he said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said he was “shocked” by Knodell’s testimony, adding that the White House’s lack of action was a “breach on top of a breach.”

Knodell claimed the White House did not investigate because there was an outside investigation taking place. But Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) noted that the investigation “didn’t start until months and months later, and [only] had the purpose of narrowly looking to see whether there was a criminal law violated.” Waxman asked, “But there was an obligation for the White House to investigate whether classified information was being leaked inappropriately, wasn’t there?” Knodell answered, “If that was the case, yes.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/03/cummldsl.320.240.flv]

Shortly after the leak was revealed by Novak, Bush said he wanted an investigation to identify the leaker:

A senior official quoted Bush as saying, “I want to get to the bottom of this,” during a daily meeting yesterday morning with a few top aides, including Rove.

Bush: “If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.

E&P reports, “The White House had first opposed Knodell testifying but after a threat of a subpoena from the committee yesterday he was allowed to appear today.” The Gavel has more.

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UPDATE: Rep. Waxman wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten asking him to explain why the White House failed to conduct any investigation following the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA employment. Read it here.


CUMMINGS: Let me ask you a few questions, because in answering some of the chairman’s questions, you left me shocked. And I want to make sure I heard you right.

Are you saying, with regard to this case — that is the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson — there is no report?

KNODELL: Not in my office; there is not.

CUMMINGS: And are you also saying that there was no investigation?

KNODELL: Not by my office.

CUMMINGS: Not by your office. And so you would — I could conclude then that there were no sanctions. Is that correct? No sanctions within your office? I mean — is it one of your jobs, is it part of your job to recommend sanctions where you find that there is then a breach?

KNODELL: Correct. But there was already an outside investigation that was taking place — criminal investigation. That’s why we took no action.

CUMMINGS: Now, one of your main objectives for being in the White House is to make sure that you — make sure that these kinds of things don’t happen. Is that right?

KNODELL: Correct.

CUMMINGS: And I would assume that if anyone were to take the job that you took, that one of their — in considering what happened before you got there — that this would be something that would be on the minds of everybody, because, again, this is like bells ringing, alarms going off.

CUMMINGS: This is the kind of thing that you don’t want to do, because this could end up in your lap. Is that right?

KNODELL: In this particular case, you’re absolutely right. This started long before my tenure in this position. By the time I took the position, the criminal investigation was already under way.

CUMMINGS: But did you look into it at all? You didn’t look into it at all?


CUMMINGS: I mean, just so that you could make sure you did your job right and didn’t allow this to happen again?

KNODELL: We didn’t want to have collateral investigations going on at the same time, sir.

CUMMINGS: So if there is a criminal investigation and you have got to — you’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again, so you don’t even look into it at all?

In other words, you, as the guy — you’re the guy who is responsible for guarding all of this and making sure that everything goes right. So it sounds to me like we had a breach on top of a breach. We had one situation where Ms. Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity and covert status was disclosed. And then within the very office within the White House, there’s no report, there’s no investigation and there are no sanctions.

KNODELL: Sir, again, any reporting would have taken place prior to my arriving into the office.

CUMMINGS: Now, the criminal case is…

WAXMAN: Will the gentleman yield to me…

CUMMINGS: Of course.

WAXMAN: … because I just want to pin this point down? Do you know whether there was an investigation at the White House after the leaks came out?

KNODELL: I don’t have any knowledge of an investigation within my office.


KNODELL: I do not.

WAXMAN: Because the president said he was investigating this matter and was going to get the bottom of it. You’re not aware that any investigation took place?

KNODELL: Not within my office, sir.

WAXMAN: And if there was an investigation, what were you referring to, Mr. Fitzgerald’s investigation?

KNODELL: Yes, the outside investigation.

WAXMAN: OK, that didn’t start until months and months later, and that had the purpose of narrowly looking to see whether there was a criminal law violated. But there was an obligation for the White House to investigate whether classified information was being leaked inappropriately, wasn’t there?

KNODELL: If that was the case, yes.