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

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Report: Cheney Cited as Source in CIA Leak - Yahoo! News

Documents in the CIA leak investigation indicate the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney first heard of the covert CIA officer from Cheney himself, The New York Times reported in Tuesday editions.

The newspaper said notes of a previously undisclosed June 12, 2003 conversation between I. Lewis Libby and Cheney appear to differ from Libby's grand jury testimony that he first heard of Valerie Plame from journalists. The newspaper identified its sources as lawyers who are involved in the case.

Libby has emerged at the center of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's criminal investigation in recent weeks because of the Cheney aide's conversations about Plame with Times reporter Judith Miller.

Miller said Libby spoke to her about Plame and her husband, Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, on three occasions.

Libby's notes show that Cheney knew of Plame's CIA work more than a month before her identity was publicly exposed by columnist Robert Novak.

At the time of the Cheney-Libby conversation, Wilson had been referred to — but not by name — in the Times and on the morning of June 12, 2003 on the front page of The Washington Post.

The Times reported that Libby's notes indicate Cheney got his information about Wilson from then-CIA Director George Tenet.

The notes, the newspaper said, contain no suggestion that Cheney or Libby knew at the time of their conversation of Plame's undercover status or that her identity was classified.

According to a former intelligence official close to Tenet, the former CIA chief has not been in touch with Fitzgerald's staff for over 15 months and was not asked to testify before the grand jury. The official said Tenet declined to comment on the investigation.

Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, did not return phone calls and e-mail to his office. The White House also did not return calls.

Fitzgerald is expected to decide this week whether to seek criminal indictments in the case. Lawyers involved in the case have said Libby and Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, both face the possibility of indictment.

Putting Cheney in the heart of the information flow regarding Wilson's wife represents yet another ratcheting up of the CIA leak investigation as a political problem for the White House.

Fitzgerald questioned Cheney over a year ago. It is not publicly known what the vice president told the prosecutor.

Cheney has said little in public about what he knew. In September 2003, he told NBC he did not know Wilson or who sent him on a trip to Niger in 2002 to check into a intelligence — later deemed unreliable — that Iraq may have been seeking to buy uranium there.

"I don't know who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back," Cheney said at the time. "... I don't know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn't judge him. I have no idea who hired him."

The Cheney-Libby conversation occurred the same day that The Washington Post published a front-page story about the CIA sending a retired diplomat to Africa, where he was unable to corroborate intelligence that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium yellowcake from Niger. The diplomat was Wilson.

A year after Wilson's trip, President Bush said in his State of the Union address that Iraq was pursuing uranium in Africa.


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