link 4 Senators Criticize Leak Probe By Mike Allen and Susan Schmidt Washington Post Friday 10 October 2003 Letter to Bush Cites Screening of White House Documents Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and three other Senate Democrats asserted yesterday that procedures adopted by the Justice Department and White House could compromise an investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA operative's identity. Their objections include the decision of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to screen documents White House employees submitted to his office in response to a Justice Department order. Gonzales set a deadline of last Tuesday for employees to turn in records that might be relevant; then his office is forwarding them to investigators. The White House has not ruled out the possibility that Gonzales will seek to withhold documents under a claim of executive privilege. The Justice Department and several outside Republican lawyers said they considered the procedures to be standard and prudent. The Democrats outlined their objections in a letter to President Bush, calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor who would have a degree of independence from Attorney General John D. Ashcroft. "Already, just fourteen days into this investigation, there have been at least five serious missteps," they wrote. "We are at risk of seeing this investigation so compromised that those responsible for this national security breach will never be identified and prosecuted." The letter was signed by Daschle and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.). The objections were: The Justice Department began the investigation Sept. 26 but did not ask the White House to order employees to preserve relevant evidence until Sept. 29. Gonzales did not order employees to preserve their records until the next day, when the investigation was announced. The Justice Department did not ask the Pentagon and State Department to preserve possible evidence until late on Oct. 1, after news reports that such a request was coming. White House press secretary Scott McClellan has said he determined that three senior officials who were the subject of speculation in news accounts were not involved in leaking classified information. The senators wrote: "Clearly, a media spokesperson does not have the legal expertise to be questioning possible suspects or evaluating or reaching conclusions about the legality of their conduct." Ashcroft remains responsible for the probe despite his close political and personal relationships with Bush and his top aides. Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo replied: "From the time that career prosecutors at the Department of Justice decided to open an investigation, it has been handled professionally and by the book." The investigation is being headed by John J. Dion, the department's counterespionage chief. Corallo called Dion "a 30-year-veteran of impeccable integrity." Federal law generally bars destruction of materials relevant to an investigation whether or not subpoenas have been issued. Asked Tuesday about the possibility of a claim of executive privilege on documents not forwarded to investigators, McClellan said: "The president has made it clear that we are cooperating fully. We welcome this investigation. We want this investigation to move forward in a thorough and quick way, so that we can get to the bottom of this. But I think it's premature to even speculate about such matters."