WASHINGTON - President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, testified Friday before a federal grand jury trying to determine who leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer.
Rove spent more than two hours testifying before the panel, according to an administration official who spoke only on condition of anonymity because such proceedings are secret.
Before testifying, Rove was interviewed at least once by investigators probing the leak. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell also have been interviewed, though none has appeared before the grand jury.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy referred questions to the Justice Department.
The special prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, declined comment through a spokesman.
The investigation concerns whether a crime was committed when someone leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose name was published by syndicated columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003.
Disclosure of the identity of an undercover intelligence officer can be a federal crime if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and the leaker knew about the officer's secret status.
Novak's column appeared after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote a newspaper opinion article criticizing Bush's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger — a claim the CIA had asked Wilson to check out. Wilson has said he believes his wife's name was leaked as retribution.
In a widely quoted remark, Wilson said after a speech in 2003 that it might be "fun to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." Wilson has accused Rove of spreading word of the Novak column to reporters.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign was quick to pounce on news of Rove's appearance, with senior adviser Joe Lockhart issuing a statement calling on Rove and other aides to "come clean about their role in this insidious act."
"If the president sincerely wanted to get to the bottom of this potential crime, he'd stop the White House foot-dragging and fully cooperate with this investigation," Lockhart said.
Bush and his top advisers have repeatedly said they are cooperating in the probe, which began more than a year ago.
Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine have been held in contempt by a federal judge for refusing to testify before the grand jury about sources they talked to while following up on Novak's column. Both are appealing those rulings.
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