Former Aide Testifies in CIA Leak Case

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A former White House spokesman took his charges against the Bush administration to Capitol Hill Friday.

Some Republicans say Scott McClellan was testifying just so he could sell more copies of his new book. But congressional Democrats were taking the author's charges seriously.

As the Valerie Plame scandal was breaking at the White House, McClellan says he was uneasy about telling reporters the vice president's deputy, Scooter Libby, had nothing to do with leaking CIA agent Plame's identity, but he was pushed.

"One of the most disturbing revelations in your book was that White House officials including the president and vice president directed you to falsely vouch for Scooter Libby not being involved in the Valerie Plame leak," Rep. John Conyers, the Judiciary committee chairman, told McClellan at the hearing.

"It was Andy Card who directed me to do that at the request of the president and vice president," McClellan testified.

He says he then telephoned Libby.

"And he assured me in unequivocal terms that he was not, meaning the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity," McClellan said.

McClellan testified he believes George Bush had nothing to do with knowingly covering anything up, but isn't sure about Dick Cheney, Libby's boss.

"There's a cloud that remains over the vice president's office, but it is because Scooter Libby put it there by lying and obstructing justice," he said.

What may be more serious is McClellan's charge about the White House cynically marketing the Iraq war.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York said, "You state the Iraq war was sold to the American public with a sophisticated political propaganda campaign, that included overstating intelligence on Iraq manipulating sources of public opinion, downplaying the major reasons for going to war. As the president's former deputy chief press secretary, this is a very serious charge."

"We took this permanent campaign mentality that is used on other issues like Social Security or education reform and used it to take the nation to war and sold the nation on the premise that Iraq was a grave and gathering danger," McClellan responded. "We now know that it was not; that the danger was overstated."

Bush defenders didn't take all this sitting down. One attacked McClellan's motives.

"Mr. McClellan was asked to leave his job," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. "Did this color his views? Did he just want to strike back at those who showed him to the door?"

And Smith suggested partisan Democrats at McClellan's publisher manipulated him into attacking the White House so harshly.

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Paul Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

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