News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

BLOOMBERG: Cheney, Libby May Be at Odds Over CIA Leak-Case Investigation

By Richard Keil and Holly Rosenkrantz
Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- A fissure may be opening between Vice President Dick Cheney and his top aide over the investigation into the leak of a covert CIA agent's identity.

I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, first learned of agent Valerie Plame's identity in a conversation with Cheney weeks before her name became public in July 2003, the New York Times reported last night, citing lawyers involved in the case.

The disclosure doesn't indicate that the vice president did anything wrong, said a senior Republican with ties to Cheney. The person declined to make a similar statement about Libby.

The senior Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity, sought to portray Cheney as uninvolved in any violation of a 1982 law forbidding the revelation of a covert intelligence agent's identity. The official noted that both Cheney and Libby had the security clearances necessary to discuss Plame's identity.

The Times report focuses new attention on Cheney's role in an affair that holds serious legal and political jeopardy for top officials in President George W. Bush's administration. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is nearing the end of a 22- month investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing in the leaking of Plame's identity and is believed to be considering indictments against top White House officials, including Libby and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.

The Times said it based its account on Libby's notes from a June 12, 2003, meeting between him and Cheney. According to lawyers involved in the case who described Libby's notes to the Times, they indicate Cheney got his information about Plame from George Tenet, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Questions About Wilson

The Times said Tenet was responding to questions from Cheney about Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who was soon to emerge as a public critic of the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq. Among the issues Fitzgerald is probing is whether Plame's CIA connection was leaked to retaliate against Wilson.

A Cheney spokesman, Steve Schmidt, referred questions about the Times account to Fitzgerald. Libby's attorney, Joseph Tate, didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

Fitzgerald's case began as a probe into whether any White House official violated the law protecting covert agents. Attorneys involved in the case and grand jury witnesses have said the case has evolved in recent months into a probe of whether any official committed perjury, obstructed justice or engaged in a conspiracy to keep secret any administration plans on how to deal with Wilson.

Libby Testimony

The attorneys and witnesses have said that Libby has previously testified under oath that he first learned of Plame's identity from reporters, a statement contradicted anew by the Times account. Libby's statement has already been challenged by NBC News reporter Tim Russert, who has denied Libby's assertion that he learned of Plame's identity from Russert.

Fitzgerald is also looking into any role that Cheney, 64, might have played in the affair. New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote in the Oct. 16 New York Times that Fitzgerald asked her whether the vice president ``had known what his chief aide,'' Libby, ``was doing and saying'' regarding Wilson, a critic of the war in Iraq.

Miller testified after spending 85 days in jail for initially refusing to cooperate with Fitzgerald.

One lawyer intimately involved in the case, who like the others demanded anonymity, said one reason Fitzgerald was willing to send Miller to jail to compel testimony was because he was pursuing evidence the vice president may have been aware of the specifics of the anti-Wilson strategy.

In her Times account, Miller said she told Fitzgerald and the grand jury that Libby, 55, raised the subject of Wilson's wife during a meeting on June 23, 2003. That was before Wilson, 55, went public in a Times op-ed piece with his accusation that Bush and his aides had ``twisted'' intelligence findings to justify invading Iraq, although administration officials knew he was privately critical.


Post a Comment

<< Home