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

Friday, October 28, 2005 Libby Indictment Shows Campaign to Discredit Iraq War Critic

Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The case against I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff who is accused of lying about the leak of a CIA agent's name, describes a three-month White House campaign to discredit a critic of the Iraq war.

Libby, 55, began digging in May 2003 for information on Joseph Wilson, who disputed a key claim President George W. Bush used to justify the invasion of Iraq, court papers say. Cheney and others told Libby that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a Central Intelligence Agency employee a month later, the prosecutors say. Her name first appeared in print in July.

``The administration looks like it was paying careful attention to anyone who was a critic of the arguments being made for going to war in Iraq,'' said Stephen Saltzburg, a former Justice Department official and now a professor at George Washington University Law School. ``It's a reminder that we went to war on such bad information.''

The mission against Wilson, as described in a five-count indictment today, involved other White House aides and brought Libby in contact with officials from the State Department, the CIA, and the White House press office.

The name of Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser who appeared four times before the grand jury, doesn't appear in the indictment, and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald refused to say if he still might face charges.

``The substantial bulk of work in this investigation is concluded,'' said Fitzgerald at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.

A Disruption for Bush

The charges have disrupted Bush's second term in office, which has been beset by criticism of the war and the response to recent hurricanes. The indictment, which prompted Libby to resign, also gives ammunition to the president's political opponents.

``This is far more than an indictment of an individual,'' Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts said in a statement. ``In effect, it's an indictment of the vicious and devious tactics used by the administration to justify a war we never should have fought.''

Fitzgerald refused to identify the official who leaked Plame's name to conservative columnist Robert Novak, the first to report her name. The court papers refer to the person both as ``Official A'' and a ``senior official in the White House.''

Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, also took pains to say that Libby isn't charged with disclosing the name of a covert CIA agent, which is the allegation that began the probe. Libby is accused of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

Libby's Campaign

``If what we allege in the indictment is true, then what is charged is a very, very serious crime,'' Fitzgerald said. The nation's security can be at stake when a CIA officer is unmasked, he said.

The indictment alleges that Libby's campaign began in May 2003 after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof challenged Bush's assertion that British authorities had learned that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ``recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.''

In a May 6 column, Kristof reported that the CIA sent a former U.S. ambassador, not identified by name, to Niger to investigate the accuracy of the British allegations, which the president had repeated in his 2003 State of the Union address to Congress.

Libby sought the identity of the former ambassador from then- Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman, who informed him the diplomat was Joseph Wilson. Grossman told Libby on June 11 or June 12, 2003, that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and she was involved in planning the trip, according to the indictment. Libby confirmed this information with a CIA official.

Reporter's Inquiries

The indictment states Libby and others in Cheney's office discussed how to respond to inquiries by Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus about Wilson's trip.

On June 12, the indictment says, Cheney told Libby that Wilson's wife worked in the division of the CIA that tries to stop proliferation of unconventional weapons.

The government says that, following the on-line publication June 19 of a New Republic report that Cheney's office had sent Wilson to Niger, Libby and his then-principal deputy, Eric Edelman, discussed whether to leak the details of the trip to the press to rebut the article.

Libby told Edelman ``there would be complications at the CIA'' from disclosing the information, the indictment says. Still, on June 23, Libby told New York Times reporter Judith Miller that Wilson's wife ``might work at a bureau of the CIA,'' the indictment says.

The campaign continued after Wilson published his own story, a July 6 opinion piece in the New York Times entitled ``What I Didn't Find in Africa,'' according to the indictment.

Confirming Reports

During a lunch the next day, Libby told White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, the government says. On July 8, Libby spoke again with Miller about the trip and again on July 12. Also that day, Libby confirmed to Time reporter Matthew Cooper that he had also heard that Wilson's wife helped set up his trip to Niger, the indictment says.

Libby, however, told both FBI agents and the grand jury that reporters told him about Plame, who also went by her married name, Valerie Wilson.

``At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true,'' Fitzgerald said today. ``It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly.''

To contact the reporter on this story:
Robert Schmidt in Washington at

Last Updated: October 28, 2005 17:16 EDT


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