Friday, March 9, 2007

Plame Agrees to Testify Before House Committee

Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA officer at the center of the case that led to the perjury conviction of White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has agreed to testify before a congressional committee investigating the affair.

The March 16 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will mark the first time that Plame will answer questions in public since her identity was revealed in a syndicated column in July 2003.

In a letter yesterday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, also asked Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald to appear at the hearing on whether White House officials, including Vice President Cheney and senior White House adviser Karl Rove, followed appropriate procedures for safeguarding Plame's identity.

Fitzgerald's investigation led to the conviction of Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, for obstructing justice and lying about his role in the leak of Plame's name to the news media.

Waxman said Congress needs Fitzgerald's "unique perspective" and information on whether Libby was a "fall guy" and "whether the ultimate responsibility for the outing of [Plame] rests with more senior officials in the White House."

Waxman asked Fitzgerald to first meet with him and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), the committee's ranking Republican, to discuss getting his testimony.

Randall Samborn, Fitzgerald's spokesman, said yesterday that the prosecutor is reviewing Waxman's request. He would not comment further, Samborn said.

DHS Imposes Prohibition On Lobbying by Ex-Officials

Senior officials of the Department of Homeland Security will no longer be permitted to lobby parts of the agency within a year of leaving office, Secretary Michael Chertoff said, closing a controversial "revolving door" ethics loophole created after his predecessor, Tom Ridge, left office.

The change will apply to assistant secretary-level appointees and senior executive service members who earn more than $145,320 a year and who leave after June 7.

At the request of senior DHS officials, government ethics officers in November 2004 exempted the department from the yearlong "cooling off" period that generally prohibits top officials from lobbying their former agencies, determining that, for purposes of the rule, DHS would be split into seven components plus headquarters. That allowed officials to lobby components other than theirs for private firms immediately upon resigning.

Inquiry Into Poisoning Of U.S. Citizens Is Sought

The United States urged Moscow to quickly investigate the suspected poisoning in Russia of two U.S. citizens with thallium, a highly toxic metal that can cause a slow, painful death.

The two U.S. citizens, identified by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow as Marina Kovalevsky and daughter Yana, were hospitalized in Moscow and then returned to Los Angeles on Wednesday. They were listed in fair condition.

-- From Staff Reports and News Services

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