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

Friday, October 21, 2005

Possible cover-up a focus in CIA leak case: lawyers - Yahoo! News

By Adam Entous

Prosecutors investigating the outing of a covert CIA operative are focusing on whether top White House aides tried to conceal their involvement from investigators, lawyers involved the case said on Thursday.

Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser, and Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, are at the center of federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Plame's identity was leaked to the media after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, challenged the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq.

The lawyers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Fitzgerald appears likely to bring charges next week in the nearly two-year leak investigation. The grand jury expires on October 28.

Fitzgerald's spokesman declined to comment.

While Fitzgerald could still charge administration officials with knowingly revealing Plame's identity, several lawyers in the case said he was more likely to seek charges for easier-to-prove crimes such as making false statements, obstruction of justice and disclosing classified information. He may also bring a broad conspiracy charge, the lawyers said.

Legal sources said Rove may be in legal jeopardy for initially not telling the grand jury he talked to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Plame. Rove only recalled the conversation after the discovery of an e-mail message he sent to Stephen Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, had no immediate comment.

Luskin said earlier this week that Rove "has at all times strived to be as truthful as possible and voluntarily brought the Cooper conversation to Fitzgerald's attention."

Libby could be open to false statement and obstruction charges because of contradictions between his testimony and that of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and other journalists. Miller has testified she discussed Wilson's wife with Libby as many as three times before columnist Robert Novak publicly identified her.

Libby has said he learned of Wilson's wife from reporters, but journalists have disputed that.

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.

After initially promising to fire anyone found to have leaked information in the case, Bush in July offered a more qualified pledge: "If someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration."


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