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Officials seek wider inquiry into CIA leak

Members of Congress and 10 ex-CIA officials are seeking a broader inquiry into the leak of an undercover officer's name, aiming to determine if national security was compromised and to discourage future leaks.

In addition, a Democratic senator said the Bush administration should release details of the inquiry to show the public whether officials are cooperating as President Bush promised.

"A prosecutor has the responsibility to assure public confidence in criminal investigations, especially those of such a serious nature," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a letter Thursday to Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

Justice Department and FBI officials refused to comment on any aspect of the investigation, which began in September, other than to say it is continuing. Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the probe, which is led by Comey and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago.

Time magazine reported on its Web site that a grand jury in Washington began hearing testimony in the leak investigation Wednesday. Two law-enforcement officials said they could not confirm the report.

Investigators want to know who leaked the name of the CIA undercover officer, Valerie Plame, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in July.

Her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, has said his wife's identity may have been disclosed to discredit his assertions that the Bush administration exaggerated Iraq's nuclear capabilities to build a case for war.

The former CIA officials, in a letter to congressional leaders, said an investigation by Congress could go further than the Justice Department's by exposing how the leak happened and making clear such actions won't be tolerated.

Senators raise issues in letter to Rehnquist

WASHINGTON _ Two Democratic senators have written Chief Justice William Rehnquist to question Justice Antonin Scalia's impartiality in a case that involves the White House's energy task force.

Scalia went on a hunting trip to Louisiana with Vice President Dick Cheney, a longtime friend, shortly after the court agreed to review a lower court's decision that required White House to identify members of the vice president's task force.

Scalia has said there is no reason to question his ability to judge the case fairly.

Democratic Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a presidential candidate, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont questioned whether the court can disqualify a justice who declines to withdraw from a case. The lawmakers asked if the court has issued any guidelines about accepting gifts or travel.