WASHINGTON -- Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday that progress is being made in the investigation into the leak of a CIA undercover officer's name.
Ashcroft repeated that he has not ruled out any option, including appointment of an outside special counsel to run the investigation, a move Bush administration critics say is necessary to ensure the probe is thorough.
"I am directing and will do everything within my power to make sure that this investigation is professional, thorough, prompt and complete," Ashcroft told reporters. "This is a matter of great concern to me. Leaks are a serious matter."
Democrats contend that Ashcroft should appoint an outside special counsel or, at the very least, recuse himself from involvement in the investigation.
"From conflicts of interest to inexplicable delays, the actions so far of the attorney general and the Justice Department make it far less likely that the culprit will be found," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
President Bush and Ashcroft have repeatedly expressed confidence that a team of career Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents will uncover who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA undercover officer married to former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.
Ashcroft said the team is making progress in the case, although he provided no details.
Wilson has said he believes Bush administration officials leaked his wife's name to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in an attempt to discredit his contentions that the White House was manipulating intelligence to justify war with Iraq.
The White House has turned over thousands of documents to the Justice Department, including phone logs, e-mails and other records. The FBI has also been conducting interviews with administration officials and asked the departments of State and Defense and the CIA to preserve relevant records.