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GOP senator urges Bush, Cheney to explain CIA leak

WASHINGTON -- President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should speak publicly about their involvement in the CIA leak case so people can understand what happened, a leading Republican senator said yesterday.

''We ought to get to the bottom of it, so it can be evaluated, again, by the American people," said Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a federal court filing last week, the prosecutor in the case said Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, testified before a grand jury that he was authorized by Bush, through Cheney, to leak information from a classified document that detailed intelligence agencies' conclusions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

''I think that it is necessary for the president and vice president to tell the American people exactly what happened," Specter said on ''Fox News Sunday."

''I do say that there's been enough of a showing here with what's been filed of record in court that the president of the United States owes a specific explanation to the American people . . . about exactly what he did," Specter said.

Libby faces trial, possibly in January, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the grand jury and investigators about what he told reporters about CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald did not say in the filing that Cheney authorized Libby to leak Plame's identity, and Bush is not accused of doing anything illegal.

''The president may be entirely in the clear, and it may turn out that he had the authority to make the disclosures which were made," Specter said.

But, he added, ''it was not the right way to go about it because we ought not to have leaks in government."

The investigation is looking into whether Plame's identify was disclosed to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, an Iraq war critic.

Wilson had accused the administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

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