1 October 2003

Shades of Kelly

In a twisted play on a game that governments have recently become fond of, officials of the Bush administration may have deliberately disclosed the identity of their own undercover CIA agent - to get even with her husband.

The incident has echoes of the David Kelly case in Britain, where the weapons expert was named and shamed after the administration realised he had told the media that the Iraq dossiers were 'sexed up'. Dr Kelly later committed suicide.

The American case, now gathering steam, may claim political victims as a Justice Department inquiry is underway and an outcry is building up over the dirty tactics. The Democrats are milking the political fallout while a defensive President George W Bush has reportedly threatened to fire anyone responsible for the leak.

To outsiders, however, the episode signals that the Bush administration will play hardball with its critics at home - just as it will crush its enemies abroad.

If this ends up before a congressional committee or a criminal court it will be interesting to see what extra documents our prime minister will discover no-one told him about.

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