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

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cheney aide a key focus in CIA leak probe: lawyers - Yahoo! News

By Adam Entous

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff could face obstruction and other charges over exchanges with a New York Times reporter as prosecutors wind up an investigation of who leaked a covert CIA operative's identity, people close to the case said on Sunday.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, were among the possible targets of the probe. Legal sources said special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was likely to decide this week whether or not to bring indictments.

While Fitzgerald could try to charge administration officials with knowingly revealing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, several lawyers in the case said he was more likely to seek charges for conspiracy and easier-to-prove crimes such as disclosing classified information, making false statements, obstruction and perjury.

Fitzgerald could also decide that no crime was committed.

Plame's diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, says White House officials outed his wife, damaging her ability to work undercover, to discredit him for accusing the administration of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war in a New York Times opinion piece on July 6, 2003.

"Fitzgerald is putting together a big case, and he's looking for little pieces of a puzzle," Robert Bennett, the lead attorney for New York Times reporter Judith Miller, said on ABC's "This Week."

Miller spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to testify and published an account of her grand jury testimony in Sunday's New York Times.

Legal sources said Rove could be vulnerable to a perjury charge for not initially telling the grand jury that he talked to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Plame.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, brushed aside speculation about Fitzgerald's intentions, saying, "Rove has at all times strived to be as truthful as possible and voluntarily brought the Cooper conversation to Fitzgerald's attention."

White House officials were bracing for the possibility of bad news from the inquiry. It seemed clear that Rove would have to step down, at least temporarily, if indicted.


Libby could be open to false statement and obstruction charges if his testimony contradicts Miller's and if the prosecutor concludes that a private letter Libby sent to Miller was intended to influence her grand jury testimony, lawyers and other sources involved in the case said.

"Much would depend upon what Mr. Libby said to the grand jury. If he said that he had not talked to Judy about these things or didn't talk about the wife, then he's got a problem," Bennett said.

Libby discussed Wilson's wife with Miller as many as three times before columnist Robert Novak publicly identified her as Valerie Plame, a CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction.

Miller disclosed on Saturday that the notebook that she used for an interview with Libby in July 2003 contained the name "Valerie Flame," a clear reference to Plame. But Miller told Fitzgerald she did not think Libby was the source of the name and that she could not recall who gave her that information, according to her account in The New York Times.

Bennett said it was not clear from Miller's testimony whether or not Libby shared with her classified information.

But sources said Libby could be in legal jeopardy over one sentence in a September 15 letter he sent to Miller while she was still in jail. In that letter, Libby urged Miller to testify about their conversations and noted that other reporters have made clear to the grand jury that "they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."

Miller said that part of Libby's letter surprised her "because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity."

"Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job," said Miller.

Bennett called Libby's reference to the testimony of other reporters "very troubling."

"Our reaction when we got that letter, both Judy's and mine, is that was a very stupid thing to put in a letter because it just complicated the situation," Bennett said.

Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, has not returned calls seeking comment.


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