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

Friday, October 07, 2005

Rove Says He Wasn't Involved in CIA Leak - Yahoo! News

By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer
15 minutes ago

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told President Bush and others that he never engaged in an effort to disclose a CIA operative's identity to discredit her husband's criticism of the administration's Iraq policy, according to people with knowledge of Rove's account in the investigation.

They said Rove's denial to Bush occurred during a brief conversation in the fall of 2003, a few months after media reports revealed that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked as a covert CIA operative.

Those with direct knowledge of evidence gathered in the criminal investigation spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is wrapping up an investigation into whether Rove; Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; or other White House aides divulged Plame's identity in violation of federal law.

Besides the disclosure of Plame's identity, the investigation is examining whether presidential aides mishandled classified information, made false statements or obstructed justice.

Rove is slated to testify before the grand jury soon for a fourth time, although prosecutors have told him they no longer can assure he will avoid indictment. Rove offered in July to return to the grand jury for additional testimony, and Fitzgerald accepted that offer after taking grand jury testimony from the formerly jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

The discussion with Bush, along with others, was general and did not get into specifics concerning Rove's contacts with two reporters, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who wrote stories identifying Plame, the people familiar with Rove's account said.

They said Bush asked Rove to assure him he was not involved in an effort to divulge Plame's identity and punish Wilson, and the longtime confidant assured him so. He answered similarly when White House press secretary Scott McClellan asked a similar question.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, declined Friday to comment on the specifics of the discussions with Bush but confirmed his client maintains — then and now — he did not engage in an effort to disclose Plame's identity.

Rove has told a grand jury he first learned of Plame's work for the CIA from news reporters and then discussed it with Novak and Cooper.

"Did Karl purposely set out to disclose Valerie Plame's identity in order to punish Joe Wilson for his criticism? The answer is, 'No,'" Luskin said. "That was his answer in July 2003 and in October 2003 (when he first testified) And it remains his answer today."

"He always truthfully denied that he was ever part of any campaign to punish Joe Wilson by disclosing the identity of his wife," Luskin said.

In addition to Rove's discussions with reporters, investigators are also looking into a delay in learning about Rove's contact with Cooper and an e-mail between Rove and now-National Security Adviser Steve Hadley that referenced the conversation.

Cooper's contact with Rove did not come up in Rove's first interview or grand jury appearance, but he volunteered the information and provided the email during a second grand jury appearance.

Wilson, Plame's husband, went public on July 6, 2003, with criticism of Bush administration officials, suggesting they manipulated intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

Eight days later, Novak revealed the identity of Wilson's wife, giving her maiden name, Valerie Plame, the name she used as a covert CIA officer. Novak said his information about Wilson's wife had come from two senior administration officials.

Rove acknowledged talking to Novak about the story. Cooper's wrote a similar story a few days after also talking with Rove.

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Rove Assured Bush He Was Not Leaker (10/07/05)

By Murray Waas, Washington-based journalist, for National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Friday, Oct. 7, 2005

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove personally assured President Bush in the early fall of 2003 that he had not disclosed to anyone in the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, was a CIA employee, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the accounts that both Rove and Bush independently provided to federal prosecutors.

During the same conversation in the White House two years ago-occurring just days after the Justice Department launched a criminal probe into the unmasking of Plame as a covert agency operative-Rove also assured the president that he had not leaked any information to the media in an effort to discredit Plame's husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson. Rove also did not tell the president about his July 2003 a phone call with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, a conversation that touched on the issue of Wilson and Plame.

But some 22 months later, Cooper's testimony to the federal grand jury investigating the Plame leak has directly contradicted Rove's assertions to the president. Cooper has testified that Rove was the person who first told him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, although Rove did not name her. Cooper has also testified that Rove told him that Plame helped arrange for Wilson to make a fact-finding trip for the CIA to the African nation of Niger to investigate allegations that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium with which to build a nuclear bomb.

In his first interview with FBI agents working on the leak probe, Rove similarly did not disclose that he had spoken to Cooper, according to sources close to the investigation,

But in subsequent interviews with federal investigators and in his testimony to the grand jury, Rove changed his account, asserting that when the FBI first questioned him, he had simply forgotten about his phone conversation with Cooper. Rove also told prosecutors that he had forgotten about the Cooper conversation when he talked to the president about the matter in the fall of 2003.

In his own interview with prosecutors on June 24, 2004, Bush testified that Rove assured him he had not disclosed Plame as a CIA employee and had said nothing to the press to discredit Wilson, according to sources familiar with the president's interview. Bush said that Rove never mentioned the conversation with Cooper. James E. Sharp, Bush's private attorney, who was present at the president's interview with prosecutors, declined to comment for this story.

Sources close to the leak investigation being run by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald say it was the discovery of one of Rove's White House e-mails-in which the senior Bush adviser referred to his July 2003 conversation with Cooper-that prompted Rove to contact prosecutors and to revise his account to include the Cooper conversation.

The new disclosures concerning Rove's personal assurances to the president about Plame arise as Fitzgerald is concluding his investigation and the federal grand jury is making final decisions on whether to bring charges against Rove; against I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney; or against others, in regard to the disclosure of Plame's covert status at the CIA.

Rove on Thursday agreed to appear a fourth time before the federal grand jury, as federal prosecutors warned him that they could not guarantee that he would not be criminally charged, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

According to outside legal experts, it is rare for prosecutors to seek to question a witness before the grand jury so late in the course of a high-profile investigation and after the witness has already testified three times, unless criminal charges are being considered.

Sources close to the Fitzgerald investigation say that Rove's personal assurances to the president and his initial interview with the FBI are central to whether the grand jury might charge Rove with making false statements to investigators or with obstruction of justice.

Robert Luskin, an attorney for Rove, said in response to questions for this story that his client "has always attempted to be honest and fully forthcoming" to anyone "he has spoken to about this matter, whether that be the special prosecutor or the president of the United States. My client would not hide anything, because he has nothing to hide. It would not be to his benefit to do so."

Luskin also asserted that any misstatements that his client might have made to the president, the FBI, or other public officials, were not purposeful and were due to incomplete records and faulty memories.

Luskin said that Rove welcomed another opportunity to "set the record straight" by appearing before the federal grand jury again, and that Fitzgerald has assured him that the prosecutor has "made no charging decision" related to his client. Luskin said that Rove had volunteered to return to the grand jury, in part, as a result of Cooper's testimony.

Rove did not disclose his conversation with Cooper to White House press secretary Scott McClellan and other administration communications staffers when they were preparing answers to anticipated press inquiries about the Plame leak, according to current and former administration officials, as well as White House records turned over to federal investigators.

As a result, McClellan mistakenly told a White House press briefing on September 29, 2003, that it was "simply not true" that Rove was involved in any way in the Plame leak. McClellan also forcefully asserted that anyone caught leaking classified information "would no longer be in this administration."

McClellan later told reporters that he had personally asked both Rove and Libby whether they had played a role in leaking information about Plame to reporters, "so I could come back to you [the press] and say they were not involved." Asked whether his statement was a categorical denial of any role by either Rove or Libby, McClellan told the press: "That is correct."

The Plame controversy had an inauspicious beginning:

On July 6, 2003, The New York Times published Wilson's op-ed piece charging that the Bush administration-looking to bolster its case for going to war against Iraq-misrepresented the intelligence information he had collected on the Niger mission. After the article appeared, Rove and Libby led a White House damage-control effort to counter Wilson's allegations.

It was during that damage-control effort in the summer of 2003 that Robert Novak named Plame as a CIA operative in a July 14 newspaper column. During Justice's subsequent leak probe-which eventually Fitzgerald took over-Rove and Libby told investigators that as part of the damage-control effort, they told journalists that Plame had played a role in having Wilson sent on the Niger mission. Both Rove and Libby have denied, however, that they knew at the time that Plame was a covert CIA operative.

According to both Rove's and Novak's accounts to investigators, on July 9, three days after Wilson's column appeared, the White House aide and the columnist had a conversation about Plame. After the two discussed an unrelated topic, Novak told Rove that he had heard that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and that she might have been responsible for having her husband sent to Niger.

"I heard that too," Rove said to Novak, according to Rove's account to investigators as well as to various published accounts.

Novak has told investigators much the same story, according to those same accounts. In Novak's version, however, when Novak asked Rove whether he knew that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, Rove responded: "Oh, you know about it."

In his column, Novak called Plame an "agency operative," thus identifying her as a covert agent. But Novak has since claimed that his use of the phrase "agency operative" was his own formulation, and that he did not know, or mean to tell his readers, that she had covert status in the agency. Rove has told federal investigators that when he talked to both Cooper and Novak about Plame in July 2003, he did not know she had covert status.

Whether Rove knew of Plame's status at the time has been central to Fitzgerald's investigation. By law, a government official can be prosecuted only if he or she knew of a person's covert status and if "the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent."

Then there is the matter of the source-reporter relationship between Rove and Novak. Rove, in giving his assurances to the president in the fall of 2003, did not say he had served as a corroborating source for Novak's column about Plame.

Sources close to Rove say he simply did not know at the time that Novak had used him to corroborate the Plame information published in the July 14 column. Rove did not discover that until after his initial interview with the FBI, sources say.

Indeed, Rove's story to investigators was that when he said to Novak in July 2003, "I heard that, too," he was essentially telling Novak that he had heard the same information through the grapevine. Rove said he thought the information about Plame was hearsay and speculation, and that he was surprised to later learn that Novak had considered him one of two administration sources for his column.

A person close to Rove and familiar with his account said in an interview: "There was nothing about the context in which he was asked, or the substance of the conversation itself, that would have led Karl to believe that he was confirming-or even being asked to confirm-anything for the column."

In part because of the brevity of his comments to Novak and his lack of first-hand knowledge of the allegations about Plame, Rove did not know that he was one of the two administration sources cited in the column, the source close to Rove said.

Geneva Overholser, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri, former chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, and former editor of The Des Moines Register, said in an interview that if the press accounts of what Rove told Novak are correct, "it would have been more than fair for Rove to deny to the president that he was the source."

Rove has told federal investigators that he first learned that Plame worked for the CIA from a journalist, though he could not recall the name of the journalist. Rove also told investigators he could not recall whether he had spoken to the journalist in person or over the telephone.

What is clear is that two days after he spoke with Novak in July 2003, Rove talked with Cooper of Time. And concerning this conversation-in sharp contrast to the conversation with Novak-Rove appeared more certain of what he asserted about Plame and Wilson, according to Cooper's account to Fitzgerald's grand jury.

Shortly after speaking to Cooper on July 11, Rove sent an e-mail to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley documenting the conversation. At the time, Hadley was also playing a central role in the damage-control effort.

"Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming," Rove wrote in the e-mail to Hadley, sent shortly before noon on July 11.

The e-mail continued: "When he finished his heads-up, he immediately launched into his Niger/ isn't this damaging?/ Hasn't the President been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but said, if I were him I wouldn't get that far out in front of this."

Rove later explained to investigators that he took Cooper's phone call believing that Cooper was working on a story regarding welfare reform. The words in the e-mail -- "Niger," "Isn't this damaging?" and "Hasn't the President been hurt?" -- were all references to the potential political fallout from Wilson's allegations, Rove said. And Rove told prosecutors that his comment to Cooper, "If I were him I wouldn't get that far out in front of this," simply reflected that he was urging Cooper to use caution in relying on Wilson as a potential source.

After his grand jury testimony earlier this year, Cooper wrote in Time that it was "through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him" to Niger. Cooper also wrote, "Rove never once indicated to me that she had any kind of covert status."

Cooper wrote that after talking to Rove in July 2003, he talked to Libby and asked whether he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending him to Niger. Cooper wrote: "Libby replied, 'Yeah, I've heard that too,' or words to that effect." Like Rove, according to Cooper, Libby said nothing to indicate that Plame had covert status at the CIA.

Three days after Cooper's conversations with Rove and Libby, Novak wrote his column identifying Plame as an agency operative and reporting that she had allegedly played a role in selecting her husband for the Niger trip. Although little-noticed at the time, the column would lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor, place the president's most powerful senior adviser in legal jeopardy, and cause a New York Times reporter to go to jail for more than eighty days for refusing to talk about her confidential sources.

Novak's column prompted Time to post its own story online on July 17, 2003. "Some government officials have noted to Time in interviews," said the article co-authored by Cooper, "that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband being dispatched to Niger."

With New York Times reporter Judith Miller having now testified to the grand jury, and with Rove about to testify again, Fitzgerald is winding down his investigation and making crucial decisions on whether to bring criminal charges.

Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, says that Rove's being called before the grand jury a fourth time and so late in the inquiry is a strong indication that Fitzgerald is "attempting to tighten up the noose" and is contemplating criminal charges against Rove. Gillers said that if Fitzgerald is "pursuing a potential case for false statements, perjury, or obstruction, every time Rove speaks at this point, he is taking a risk. For better or worse, he is locked into his previous statements and testimony."

Another potential issue is whether Fitzgerald determines that Rove either purposely or inadvertently lied to the president, experts say. "The president is the top law enforcement official of the executive branch," said Rory Little, a professor of law at the University of California and a former federal prosecutor and associate attorney general in the Clinton administration. "It is a crime to make a false statement to a federal agent. If the president was asking in that capacity, and the statement was purposely false, then you might have a violation of law."

But Little pointed out another possibility. If Bush had asked Rove about Plame in an informal manner-speaking to his adviser as a longtime friend rather than in his official capacity as president-the obstacles to bringing a criminal case under false-statement statutes would be higher, making such a case unlikely.

But Randall Eliason, a former chief of the public corruption section for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and currently an adjunct law professor at American University, said that if Rove purposely misled the president, the FBI, or the White House press secretary, a reasonable prosecutor might construe such acts as "overt acts in furtherance of a criminal plan."

Added Gillers: "Misleading the president, other officials of the executive branch, or even the FBI might not, in and of themselves, constitute criminal acts. But a prosecutor investigating other crimes-such as obstruction of justice or perjury-might use evidence of any such deception to establish criminal intent. And a lack of candor might also negate a claim of good faith or inadvertent error in providing misleading information to prosecutors."

Reporter finds earlier notes in CIA leak case - Yahoo! News

New York Times reporter Judith Miller discovered notes from an earlier conversation she had with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and turned them over the prosecutor investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity, legal sources said on Friday.

Miller's notes about a June 2003 conversation with Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, could be important to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's case by establishing exactly when Libby and other administration officials first started talking to reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson.

Prosecutor in Leak Inquiry Orders Rove to Return Again - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 - The special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case has summoned Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, to return next week to testify to a federal grand jury in a step that could mean charges will be filed in the case, lawyers in the case said Thursday.

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has held discussions in recent days with lawyers for several administration officials suggesting that he is considering whether to charge them with a crime over the disclosure of an intelligence operative's identity in a 2003 newspaper column.

Mr. Fitzgerald is said by some of the lawyers to have indicated that he has not made up his mind about whether to accuse anyone of wrongdoing and will use the remaining days before the grand jury's term expires on Oct. 28 to decide.

Mr. Rove has appeared before the grand jury on three previous occasions.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fitzgerald has indicated that he is not entirely finished with Judith Miller, the reporter for The New York Times who recently testified before the grand jury after serving 85 days in jail. According to a lawyer familiar with the case, Mr. Fitzgerald has asked Ms. Miller to meet him next Tuesday to further discuss her conversations with I. Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff.

Ms. Miller went to jail rather than divulge the identity of her source, but agreed to testify after Mr. Libby released her from a pledge of confidentiality.

Mr. Fitzgerald has not indicated whether he plans to summon Ms. Miller for further testimony before the grand jury.

Robert D. Luskin, a lawyer for Mr. Rove, said that Mr. Rove has not received a target letter, which are sometimes used by prosecutors to advise people that they are likely to be charged with a crime. Mr. Luskin said Thursday that "the special counsel has said that he has made no charging decision."

Mr. Fitzgerald's conversations with lawyers in recent days have cast a cloud over the inquiry, sweeping away the confidence once expressed by a number of officials and their lawyers who have said that he was unlikely to find any illegality.

In coming days, the lawyers said, Mr. Fitzgerald is likely to request that several other White House officials return to the grand jury to testify about their actions in the case - appearances that are believed to be pivotal as the prosecutor proceeds toward a charging decision.

Mr. Fitzgerald is also re-examining grand jury testimony by Mr. Libby, the lawyers said, but it is unknown whether he has been asked to appear again before the grand jury. Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, did not respond to telephone messages left on Thursday at his office.

Mr. Luskin said that he had offered to have Mr. Rove return to the grand jury if needed to clarify any questions that were raised by the testimony in July by Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine who was questioned about a conversation that he had with Mr. Rove in July 2003.

"Karl's consistent position is that he will cooperate any time, any place," Mr. Luskin said.

Mr. Rove has been caught up in the inquiry since the F.B.I. began investigating the matter in 2003. He has told investigators that he spoke with the columnist Robert D. Novak a few days after the operative's husband wrote an Op-Ed article for The Times, a lawyer in the case has said. In that conversation, Mr. Rove said that he learned the operative's name from the columnist and the circumstances in which her husband traveled to Africa.

But at the end of that conversation, Mr. Rove told Mr. Novak that he had already heard the outlines of the columnist's account.

The conversation with Mr. Novak took place several days before Mr. Rove spoke with a second reporter, Mr. Cooper. Mr. Cooper said later in an e-mail message to his editors that Mr. Rove had talked about the operative, although not by name.

In recent days, Mr. Rove has been less visible than usual at the White House, fueling speculation that he is distancing himself from Mr. Bush or has been sidelined. But according to a senior administration official, Mr. Rove and his wife are on a long-planned trip visiting colleges with their teenage son. Several lawyers who have been involved in the case expressed surprise and concern over the recent turn of events and are increasingly convinced that Mr. Fitzgerald could be poised to charge someone with a crime for discussing with journalists the identity of a C.I.A. officer.

The C.I.A operative was Valerie Wilson, also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. Her identity was first publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, newspaper column by Mr. Novak, which suggested that she had a role in arranging a 2002 trip to Africa by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador. The purpose of the trip was to look into intelligence reports that Iraq had sought nuclear fuel from Niger.

Mr. Novak's column was published a week after Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article in The Times on July 6, 2003, discussing his trip. Mr. Wilson wrote that he traveled to Africa at the request of the C.I.A. after the office of Vice President Dick Cheney had raised questions about the possible uranium sales. Mr. Wilson wrote that he concluded that it was "highly doubtful" that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material from Niger.

Mr. Fitzgerald has focused on whether there was a deliberate effort to retaliate against Mr. Wilson for his column and its criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy. Recently lawyers said that they believed the prosecutor may be applying new legal theories to bring charges in the case.

One new approach appears to involve the possible use of Chapter 37 of the federal espionage and censorship law, which makes it a crime for anyone who "willfully communicates, delivers, transfers or causes to be communicated" to someone "not entitled to receive it" classified information relating the national defense matters.

Under this broad statute, a government official or a private citizen who passed classified information to anyone else in or outside the government could potentially be charged with a felony, if they transferred the information to someone without a security clearance to receive it.

The lawyers who discussed the investigation declined to be identified by name citing the ongoing nature of the inquiry and Mr. Fitzgerald's requests not to talk about it.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said Ms. Miller had been cautioned by her lawyers not to discuss the substance of her grand jury testimony until Mr. Fitzgerald finished questioning her.

"We have launched a vigorous reporting effort that I hope will answer outstanding questions about Judy's part in this drama," Mr. Keller said. "This development may slow things down a little, but we owe our readers as full a story as we can tell, as soon as we can tell it."

Anne E. Kornblut contributed reporting for this article. U.S. - Rove Takes on CIA Leak Grand Jury Again in High-Stakes Gamble

Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Presidential adviser Karl Rove, who has played for the highest stakes in American politics, is taking his biggest gamble yet to avoid possible indictment in the leak of a covert Central Intelligence Agency operative's identity.

Rove, 54, volunteered to testify again before a grand jury investigating whether officials in President George W. Bush's administration were the source of the disclosure, said his lawyer, Robert Luskin. A person familiar with the case said Rove didn't get any assurance that he wouldn't be indicted.

This would be Rove's fourth time testifying before the grand jury. Repeat appearances carry the risk that the witness makes a mistake or contradicts earlier testimony, said E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., a former federal prosecutor. He compared volunteering to go in again to a repeat performance in a carnival dunking booth.

``Imagine you're the guy sitting up on top of a barrel of water, only in this case, the barrel is filled with something much worse,'' said Barcella, now a defense lawyer at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Washington. ``Usually you don't volunteer to get back up on top of that barrel.''

``Is it unusual? Yes. Is it unheard of? No,'' Barcella said. ``When you graft onto a criminal investigation a political overlay, strange things happen.''

Luskin said Rove volunteered in July to appear before the grand jury again after Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper testified about his conversations with the White House adviser.

No `Notification'

Rove ``has not received any notification that he is a target of the grand jury investigation,'' Luskin said yesterday.

``The prosecuting attorney has affirmed to us that he has made no decision on whether to bring charges,'' he said. ``Karl remains willing to cooperate in any way necessary.''

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, declined to comment.

Democrats reacted immediately to the news that Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff whom Bush called ``the architect'' of his 2004 re-election victory, would be questioned again. ``It could well be that some very high-ranking officials in this administration participated in a significant breach of national security,'' Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement yesterday.

Fitzgerald is wrapping up his two-year investigation into whether Bush administration officials violated a 1982 law designed to protect the identity of covert agents. While each case is different, the repeat appearance may suggest Fitzgerald is looking at Rove in a new light in the probe, said John Q. Barrett, a former federal prosecutor.

Witness, Subject, Target

``There are three tiers: the witness, who is usually a storyteller with some information of relevance to an investigation; a subject, someone whose conduct is within the scope of the investigation; and the target,'' said Barrett, a professor at St. John's Law School in New York. ``It may be that Rove is moving between one level to the next.''

In addition to investigating whether CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity was illegally leaked to reporters, Fitzgerald is also looking into whether any officials lied or obstructed justice in their testimony.

Charges of this kind may prove easier to sustain than bringing a case under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it illegal to knowingly or willfully reveal the identity of a covert agent. Fitzgerald also could bring a criminal conspiracy case against some of his grand jury witnesses.

The Grand Jury's Term

The grand jury's term ends Oct. 28 and Fitzgerald said in court papers in June that his probe was mostly complete except for the questioning of two reporters, Cooper at Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times, both of whom have since testified.

``What this may well indicate is that Fitzgerald wants to review some of Rove's previous testimony,'' said James Cole, a former Justice Department prosecutor who is now a partner at Bryan Cave LLP in Washington. ``Usually, when a witness is called back, it's to review what they said before in light of some new information.''

The case stemmed from the publication in July 2003 of Plame's name after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly questioned Bush's rationale for the war in Iraq.

Wilson had been dispatched by the CIA to investigate reports that Iraq tried to buy ``yellow cake'' uranium from Niger. On July 6, 2003, he published an opinion article in the New York Times saying he found no evidence of such an attempt and that the administration ``twisted'' some of the intelligence about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons to justify the war. The U.S. found no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled.

Rove and Libby

Shortly after Wilson's article was published, Rove and Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, discussed his allegations with several reporters on the condition the journalists not reveal their names, according to court documents and published accounts.

Plame's identity as a CIA operative was first published by syndicated columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. He quoted two unidentified administration officials as saying Wilson got the CIA assignment on the recommendation of his wife.

Novak hasn't revealed the source of his information, nor said whether he's been questioned by Fitzgerald or testified in the case. Time's Cooper said Rove and Libby discussed Wilson's article with him, and they didn't mention Plame by name.

ABC News: Legal Experts: Rove Testimony a Risky Move

Rove's Testimony a Risky Move, Legal Experts Say, but Not Testifying Also Might Be Risky
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Presidential aide Karl Rove's upcoming fourth appearance before a federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA officer's identity is a risky legal move because it opens him up to making statements that are inconsistent with what he previously has said, legal experts say.

Rove offered in July to return to the grand jury and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald accepted last Friday, lawyers familiar with the investigation said Thursday, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

The grand jury normally meets on Fridays and was also scheduled to convene next week, but it was unclear when Rove would testify again.

"In a normal criminal investigation, most defense lawyers are extremely cautious about their clients testifying even once before a grand jury and are generally loathe to let them testify more than once," said former federal prosecutor E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. "This is a classic example of what happens when there's a large political overlay to a criminal investigation."

At the same time, it may be risky for Rove not to testify, since Fitzgerald warned Rove that prosecutors can no longer guarantee he won't be indicted. The warning came in a letter accepting Rove's offer to testify one more time.

Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, said it was unusual for a witness to be called back to a grand jury four times and that the prosecutor's legally required warning to Rove before this next appearance is "an ominous sign" for the presidential adviser.

"It suggests Fitzgerald has learned new information that is tightening the noose," Gillers said.

After last week's appearance before the grand jury by New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Gillers said Fitzgerald may now suspect that Rove may in some way be implicated in the revelation of Valerie Plame's identity, or that he is investigating various people for obstruction of justice, false statements or perjury.

"That is the menu of risk for Rove," Gillers said.

Rove's lawyer said Thursday that Fitzgerald has assured him that he has made no decisions yet on charges and that Rove has not received a so-called target letter, usually the last step before a grand jury indictment.

Attorney Robert Luskin said Rove "continues to be cooperative voluntarily" with the investigation but that he could not further discuss his dealings with Fitzgerald's office.

While the outcome of the criminal investigation is uncertain for Rove, the legal status of another key figure, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, isn't publicly known.

Rove and Libby had conversations with reporters in July 2003 about the identity of Plame, a covert CIA officer, days after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, suggested the Bush administration had misrepresented prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Last Friday, reporter Miller testified about her conversations with Libby, while Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper testified in 2003 about a conversation with Libby and in July about a conversation with Rove. Miller's testimony came after she spent 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with Fitzgerald's probe.

Leaking the identity of a covert agent can be a crime, but it must be done knowingly and the legal threshold for proving such a crime is high. Fitzgerald could also seek charges against anyone he thinks lied to investigators or tried to obstruct the case.

The U.S. attorney's manual doesn't allow prosecutors to bring witnesses before a grand jury if there is a possibility of future criminal charges unless the witnesses are notified in advance that their testimony can be used against them in a later indictment.

The prosecutor did not give Rove similar warnings before his three earlier grand jury appearances.

For almost two years, Fitzgerald has been investigating whether someone in the Bush administration leaked Plame's identity for political reasons.

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