Michigan Democrat John Conyers and nine Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee issued a letter to the U.S. Inspector General calling for an investigation into a 12-hour delay between the Justice Department learning of the outing of a CIA agent and telling the White House to preserve documents, RAW STORY has learned.
Perhaps more significantly, however, Judiciary Democrats point to the 67 day gap between the time the CIA called the Justice Department to investigate the CIA outing and the time that the Justice Department directed the FBI to investigate the matter.
"It appears the now infamous 12 hour delay the Justice Department granted the White House before issuing an order to preserve documents was not an isolated instance," Conyers remarked. "I received information from the Central Intelligence Agency indicating a pattern of foot dragging by the Justice Department before it would commence a criminal investigation, or even respond to CIA requests."
"While the Republican Congress prepares to launch hearings, which appear to be fishing expeditions designed to discredit the Special Counsel investigating this matter, it defies reason that it would not investigate the DOJ's obviously partisan administration of justice," he added.
A letter written to the U.S. Inspector General follows.
July 26, 2005
Dear Inspector General Fine:
We write to request that you immediately commence an investigation of the Department of Justice's handling of the investigation of the leak of the identity of a covert CIA operative's identity by high-ranking Administration officials. Press reports and other information obtained by House Judiciary Committee Democrats appear to demonstrate that on at least two separate occasions, DOJ personnel acted to permit delays in the investigation, which may have resulted in the loss or destruction of critical evidence.
First, over this past weekend we learned that then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales received what appears to be a "heads-up" about the commencement of the investigation from Justice Department officials in the evening of September 29. Through White House staff, he asked DOJ personnel if it was permissible to wait an additional 12 hours to notify the White House staff of the investigation and presumably direct the staff to preserve all relevant documents and records relating to the inquiry. According to Mr. Gonzales, "Department of Justice lawyers" gave their assent to this delay:
I specifically had our lawyers go back to the Department of Justice lawyers and ask them, "Do you want us to notify the staff now, immediately or would it be okay to notify the staff early in the morning?" And we were advised, go ahead and notify the staff early in the morning, that would be okay.
Notwithstanding this request, Mr. Gonzales informed the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card about the investigation. It is not yet known who the White House Chief of Staff advised about the investigation prior to the Counsel's official notification twelve hours later.
For example, this twelve hour head start is a clear and troubling departure from Department practice. When White House contacts with Enron became essential to that investigation, then-Deputy Attorney General Christopher Wray immediately directed the White House to preserve all e-mails, memos, notes, letters and other documents from Enron employees or "any individual acting officially or unofficially, directly or indirectly on behalf" of the company. Less than an hour after receiving the directive, Mr. Gonzales issued an "administrative alert" directing officials to comply.4
Second, we previously received information about a similar delay with respect to the original criminal referral of this matter by the Central Intelligence Agency. In a letter to Ranking member Conyers, dated January 30, 2004 (enclosed), the CIA describes repeated delays and inaction by the Department. The Agency notes that Executive Order 12333 requires the Central Intelligence Agency to report to the Attorney General "possible violations of criminal law." Pursuant to this requirement, according to the letter, the CIA did the following:
On July 24, 2003, a CIA attorney left a phone message for the Chief of the Counterespionage Section of the Department of Justice noting his concern with recent stories apparently exposing the identity of Valerie Plame, an employee of the agency working under cover. There was apparently no response from the Department.
On July 30, 2003, the CIA reported to the Criminal Division of the DOJ a possible violation of criminal law concerning the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. There was apparently no response from the Department.
The CIA again transmitted their concerns by facsimile on September 5, 2003.
On September 16, in accordance with the Agency's standard practice in these matters, the CIA advised the Department that it had completed its own investigation of the matter, provided a memorandum setting forth the results of the investigation and requested that the FBI undertake a criminal investigation of the matter.
Finally, on September 29, 2003-sixty-seven days after the initial concerns were expressed by CIA employees-the DOJ responded and advised the CIA that the Counterespionage Division had requested that the FBI initiate an investigation of this matter.
Thus, it appears, that not only did DOJ personnel countenance a 12-hour delay in notifying White House staff to preserve all records (while the White House Chief of Staff was given a heads up of the existence of the investigation), but that the DOJ also appears to have ignored repeated entreaties from the CIA to initiate a law enforcement investigation into this matter several months before hand. We would therefore urge you to examine the extent that this course of conduct and other delays by the Department are consistent with standards of prosecutorial conduct and integrity.
Please respond to us at your earliest convenience though the Judiciary Committee Minority Office, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.