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

Monday, October 17, 2005

Politics News Article |

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The prosecutor investigating the outing of a covert CIA operative has yet to say whether he will bring charges, but he has decided to announce decisions in the case in Washington rather than Chicago, where he is based, his spokesman said on Monday.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating who leaked the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame since 2003, is the U.S. attorney in Chicago and his staff has been tight-lipped throughout.

"If and when there would be any announcement, it would be made in Washington," said Randall Samborn, Fitzgerald's spokesman.

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, and President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, are among the officials facing possible charges, legal sources have said.

It is unusual for Fitzgerald's office to offer comment on any aspect of the case and Monday's statement led some observers to wonder if it might be a signal that a decision was imminent or that Fitzgerald was trying to increase pressure on potential targets to cut a deal.

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

Asked on Monday if he would expect members of his administration to resign or take a leave if they were indicted, Bush said: "My position hasn't changed since the last time I've been asked this question. There's a serious investigation... I'm not going to pre-judge the outcome of the investigation."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan would not say whether preparations were underway to find replacements for Rove and Libby if they are indicted and have to step down.

"Karl is here at the White House doing his duties, as he always does," McClellan said.

Inaccurate Info May Help CIA Leak Probe on Yahoo! News

By JOHN SOLOMON and PETE YOST, Associated Press Writers

Information attributed to Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff in New York Times reporter Judith Miller's interview notes is incorrect, offering prosecutors a potential lead to tracking the bad information to its original source.

Miller disclosed this weekend that her notes of a conversation she had with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on July 8, 2003 stated Cheney's top aide told her that the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson worked for the CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) unit.

Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, never worked for WINPAC, an analysis unit in the overt side of the CIA, and instead worked in a position in the CIA's secret side, known as the directorate of operations, according to three people familiar with her work for the spy agency.

The three all spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the current secrecy requirements of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation into the leak of Plame's identity in 2003 to the media.

The revelation came as President Bush weighed in Monday by declining to say what he would do if one of his aides were indicted in the investigation, and the Pentagon looked into Miller's claim that she was granted a security clearance in 2003 while reporting with a military unit during the Iraq war.

Libby previously testified to the grand jury and it is not known whether he provided the information about WINPAC during his testimony.

Whether it came from Libby or Miller's notes, former federal prosecutors and investigators said the incorrect information provides a significant lead for Fitzgerald and FBI agents to follow. It could suggest Libby thought Plame was not an undercover spy, and therefore couldn't have knowingly revealed her occupation, or that he got his information from uninformed sources, they said.

"The fact that the information is inaccurate may make it of even greater interest to the grand jury than accurate information," said Lance Cole, former Democratic counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee and now a law professor at Penn State Dickinson School of law.

"Accurate information presumably can come from any number of sources. If he got it from a particular document or in a meeting and that document or notes of that meeting are the only place that the inaccuracy is present, then that establishes the source," Cole said.

Danny Coulson, a former top FBI official who conducted several investigations of leaks, said the possibility that Libby passed on wrong information to a reporter may indicate he didn't get his information from a credible, official source.

"What it tells me is he probably got his information from dinner talk," Coulson said. Presidential aides "had access to the official information and if they had used that, you would think they would have had the right stuff."

Even if Libby or other White House aides did not knowingly reveal Plame's covert identity, the prosecutor could consider other charges such as the mishandling of classified information, false statements and obstruction of justice, lawyers have said.

In her story published Sunday recounting her legal battle and imprisonment for refusing to testify earlier, Miller described her breakfast meeting conversation on July 8, 2003 with Libby and the point at which it turned to Plame.

"My notes contain a phrase inside parentheses: 'Wife works at Winpac.' Mr. Fitzgerald asked what that meant," Miller wrote.

"I told the grand jury that I believed that this was the first time I had heard that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for Winpac," she wrote. "In fact, I told the grand jury that when Mr. Libby indicated that Ms. Plame worked for Winpac, I assumed that she worked as an analyst, not as an undercover operative."

With the investigation nearing an end, Bush on Monday declined to say whether he would remove an aide under indictment.

"There's a serious investigation," the president said. "I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation." He commented in response to reporters' questions during a meeting with Bulgaria's president, Georgi Parvanov.

Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, as well as Libby have been questioned by the grand jury. Rove last week made his fourth and final appearance, where he was pressed on conflicts between his account and those of other witnesses.

At the Pentagon, officials also looked into Miller's claim that she had a security clearance while working as an embedded reporter during the Iraq war, shortly before her conversations with Libby.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said he was unaware of Miller having a security clearance. He said security clearances are covered by privacy laws, so he couldn't talk about it.

But Whitman said reporters who were embedded with military units during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars signed ground rules in which they agreed not to make public sensitive or secret information that they learned while with the unit.

"For a security clearance you have to go through any number of specific background investigative checks, and there are different agencies that do those. And depending on the level of clearance that's required, there's certain paperwork that has to be filled out and it has to be adjudicated," said Whitman.

He said commanders can't simply give a reporter a security clearance while in the field with the unit. / World / US - CIA leak probe 'widening to include use of intelligence'

By Caroline Daniel and Edward Alden in Washington
Published: October 17 2005 21:39 | Last updated: October 17 2005 21:39

Evidence is building that the probe conducted by Patrick Fitzgerald, special prosecutor, has extended beyond the leaking of a covert CIA agent's name to include questioning about the administration's handling of pre-Iraq war intelligence.

According to the Democratic National Committee, a majority of the nine members of the White House Iraq Group have been questioned by Mr Fitzgerald. The team, which included senior national security officials, was created in August 2002 to “educate the public” about the risk posed by weapons of mass destruction on Iraq.

Mr Fitzgerald, who has been applauded for conducting a leak-free inquiry, has said little publicly about his 22-month probe, other than that it is about the “potential retaliation against a whistleblower”, Joseph Wilson. After Mr Wilson, a former ambassador, went public with doubts about the evidence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, the name of his wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA official, was leaked to reporters.

The prosecutor has given no indication whether he will charge anyone in the case. At the weekend Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for 85 days after refusing to testify, provided new details about the scope of Mr Fitzgerald's investigation. She was asked “repeatedly” how Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, “handled classified information”.

Ms Miller said Mr Libby had made “a sharp critique of Mr Wilson”, and referred several times to the fact his wife worked at the CIA. Ms Miller also expressed surprise at a letter sent by Mr Libby when she was in jail that, she said, could imply he was trying to influence her testimony. “I replied that this portion of the letter had surprised me because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr Libby to suggest that I too would say we had not discussed Ms Plame. Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job,” she wrote.

According to Time magazine, both Mr Libby and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's chief political adviser, who has appeared four times before the grand jury, would resign or take unpaid leave if indicted for their role in the case.

Mr Rove has been adopting a lower profile, backing out of two public speeches over the last week. However, Scott McClellan, White House spokesman, said yesterday: “Karl is here at the White House doing his duties, as he always does.”

The US failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq resulted in two inquiries into the prewar intelligence, one led by the Senate intelligence committee and the other by a White House-appointed panel.

But both panels confined themselves to investigating the intelligence community, concluding that the White House was largely the innocent victim of faulty intelligence. Neither delved into the political use of the available intelligence by the administration.

Bush Refuses to Discuss CIA Leak Probe

The Associated Press
Monday, October 17, 2005; 11:47 AM

WASHINGTON -- With the CIA leak investigation nearing an end, President Bush on Monday declined to say whether he would remove an aide under indictment.

"There's a serious investigation," the president said. "I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation." He commented in response to reporters' questions during a meeting with Bulgaria's president, Georgi Parvanov.

Two of Bush's aides, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, have been questioned by a grand jury about their conversations with reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame. The identities of those who disclosed Plame's name are vital pieces of evidence for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald as he tries to track down leakers in the Bush administration.

New York Times reporter Judith Miller says she told a federal grand jury she could not recall where she heard name of the covert CIA officer whose cover was blown, even though she jotted it down in her notebook.

Miller wrote down "Valerie Flame."

"I told Mr. Fitzgerald, I simply could not recall where that came from, when I wrote it or why the name was misspelled," Miller said in a first-person account for her newspaper published Sunday.

Fitzgerald has been gathering evidence on conversations between Libby, vice presidential chief of staff, and Miller.

Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to disclose her source for Plame's identity but has since made two recent grand jury appearances about her discussions with Libby concerning Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband.

Plame's name was exposed eight days after Wilson said the administration had manipulated prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs.

"I testified that I did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby, in part because the notation does not appear in the same part of my notebook as the interview notes from him," Miller wrote in the Times. "Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I could recall discussing the Wilson-Plame connection with other sources. I said I had, though I could not recall any by name or when those conversations occurred."

Miller also wrote down Plame's name in her notes as "Victoria Wilson."

"I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I was not sure whether Mr. Libby had used this name or whether I just made a mistake in writing it on my own," Miller recalled. "Another possibility, I said, is that I gave Mr. Libby the wrong name on purpose to see whether he would correct me and confirm her identity.

"I also told the grand jury I thought it was odd that I had written `Wilson' because my memory is that I had heard her referred to only as Plame. Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether this suggested that Mr. Libby had given me the name Wilson. I told him I didn't know and didn't want to guess."

Miller's lack of recollection is hardly unusual.

The Iran-Contra controversy featured a White House military aide, Oliver North, who testified that he was unable to recall key events about the arms-for-hostages deals with Iran and the covert arming of guerrilla forces fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was unable to recall much of anything about work that she and her law firm had done on long-ago Whitewater land deals in Arkansas. The deals turned out to be fraudulent and sent some of her business partners to prison.

Miller is in a different position than her predecessors in Washington controversy. She is a witness in the investigation, not under scrutiny herself. - 'Scooter' packs lot of power but runs quietly

'Scooter' packs lot of power but runs quietly
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has never been the sort of Beltway power broker who holds court at cocktail parties and pontificates on TV. Until he became a figure in the CIA leak probe, his name was rarely in headlines.

For more than two decades, he has wielded his clout instead in the rooms at the Pentagon, State Department and White House where policies are set. As Vice President Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser since 2001, he has been involved in almost every important decision made by the Bush administration.

"He does for the vice president what the vice president does for President Bush," says Mary Matalin, a former counselor to Cheney. In Plan of Attack, his 2004 book on the Iraq war, Bob Woodward described Libby as "a power center unto himself, and accordingly, a force multiplier for Cheney's agenda and views."

Libby and deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove are at the center of an investigation into the leak of the name of a covert CIA operative. Rove is one of Bush's most famous and visible aides, but Libby has a much lower profile.

How Libby came to be the top adviser to a conservative icon — and a confidential source of New York Times reporter Judith Miller — is a mystery to some of his longtime friends. Libby, 55, has made a career of being a discreet adviser with the "passion for anonymity" that Franklin Roosevelt said White House aides should possess. He declined to be interviewed for this story. (Related stories: Miller called her own shots | Miller describes grand jury testimony)

Libby's first mentor was Paul Wolfowitz, from whom he took a political science class at Yale. Libby worked as a lawyer before joining Wolfowitz at the State Department in 1981, at the outset of the Reagan administration. After another stint in private practice, he was back at Wolfowitz's side in 1991, this time at the Pentagon. (Wolfowitz served most recently as deputy Defense secretary; he became World Bank president this year.) A report Libby wrote with Wolfowitz caught the attention of the then-Defense Secretary, Cheney, who hired him a decade later.

Libby's résumé is only part of his story. There's his name, for one thing. Everyone calls him by his childhood nickname, "Scooter." The mystery "I." stands for Irv. In 1996, he published The Apprentice, a novel set in Japan. He is an expert and daring skier, according to a 2003 profile in Ski magazine.

His opponents say Libby is part of a group of ideologues who control Bush's policies. "The nexus of Washington's neocon network," says the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a non-partisan publication that has been critical of Bush's policies. A profile on the website of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank in Washington, calls him "an aging star and an ideological soul mate" of hawks Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Douglas Feith, a former undersecretary of Defense who worked closely with Libby, disagrees. "Ideologues are people for whom the facts don't matter, and that is so obviously not a suitable term for a guy like Scooter, who is more careful with his facts, is more rigorous, is more critical and analytical than most people," he says.

Some of Libby's college classmates say his public persona bears little resemblance to the fun-loving, soccer-playing friend they remember. His Yale roommate Jackson Hogen says Libby was head of the debating society and "intrigued by the corridors of power" but was also a free spirit with "a mischievous streak."

Libby rarely talked about his private life, Hogen says. They met at Phillips Academy, a private school in Andover, Mass. Before that, he says, Libby was at another boarding school, Eaglebrook in Deerfield, Mass. He was born in New Haven, Conn. His father was an investment banker. Libby's wife, Harriet Grant, was once a lawyer on the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hogen, an executive at a sports eyewear company, doesn't share Libby's politics and says he has a hard time understanding "this horrible myopia that he has." But as a lawyer, he says, Libby was trained to "live in his clients' world and adopt their point of view." That trait, Hogen says, might help explain Libby's previous brush with scandal: He was a personal lawyer for Marc Rich, the billionaire fugitive who was pardoned by President Clinton on Clinton's last day in office.

Allen Carney, another Yale classmate who is a business executive in Bedford, Mass., also is puzzled by his old friend's current political views. "It's just very hard to conceive of him as being this power broker for the force of darkness," Carney says with a chuckle. "It does seem out of character, to be honest with you."

Libby has impressed associates with his dedication and restraint. "He doesn't talk an enormous amount, but when he says something, people generally recognize it as a serious contribution," Feith says. Matalin says Cheney trusts Libby completely and relies on his "breadth and depth of knowledge ... in combination with his superior legal skills." Libby's broad view of world history, creative thinking and discretion make him "the alter ego of the vice president," she says.

In 2002, when he did a few interviews to promote the paperback release of his novel, Libby joked about life outside government. He told CNN's Larry King that he considered himself fully on Cheney's team, "but there's always a novel kicking around in the back somewhere." And he told The New York Times, "I do occasionally dream of just becoming a novelist and sitting on Crete and drinking odd-named wines."

ABC News: Miller Story Shows White House-CIA Tension

NYT Reporter's Account Shows Blame Game Between White House and CIA Over the Iraq War
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - A New York Times reporter's accounts of her private conversations with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff capture a behind-the-scenes blame game between the White House and the CIA over the war in Iraq.

Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, complained that the CIA and other agencies were trying to shift responsibility to the White House over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction after the U.S.-led invasion, reporter Judith Miller wrote in a first-person story in Sunday's editions.

Miller recounted her recent grand jury testimony, describing her conversations with Libby about Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson and his wife, covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

It was Plame's identity that the administration leaked to reporters in an apparent effort to undercut the credibility of her husband. Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, contended the administration manipulated intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

Miller revealed that Libby referred to Wilson's wife in three conversations, though not by name.

"I recall that Mr. Libby was displeased with what he described as `selective leaking' by the CIA," Miller wrote. "He told me that the agency was engaged in a 'hedging strategy' to protect itself in case no weapons were found in Iraq."

Amid the ultimately futile hunt for the banned weapons, Libby told Miller that the CIA's strategy was, "If we find it, fine, if not, we hedged," the reporter recounted.

Libby's "frustration and anger" spilled over into their conversations, Miller wrote, with the Cheney aide describing leaking by the CIA as part of a "perverted war" over the war in Iraq.

Libby, she said, characterized intelligence agencies' prewar assessments as unequivocal on the question of whether Iraq had the deadly weapons.

The White House's primary justification for invading Iraq and toppling President Saddam Hussein had been the assertion that he had such weapons; U.S. intelligence agencies indeed concluded that was so.

Subsequent inquiries have shown there was dissent among those agencies before the war over some of the data supporting the conclusions.

During the period when Libby was complaining to Miller about CIA leaks, Libby was doing some leaking of his own to Miller about Wilson and his wife, the covert CIA officer.

Libby had persuaded the reporter to refer to him for a prospective story as a "former Hill staffer," a switch from their earlier understanding that Libby should be referred to as a senior administration official.

"I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill," Miller said. "I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson."

Libby "proceeded through a lengthy and sharp critique of Mr. Wilson and what Mr. Libby viewed as the CIA's backpedaling on the intelligence leading to war," Miller said in describing a two-hour breakfast with Libby at a hotel near the White House in July 2003.

Two days earlier, Wilson wrote an opinion column in the Times in which he leveled the charge against the administration of manipulating prewar intelligence about Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons program.

Miller had written stories before the war supporting the administration's position that Iraq had such a program.

"Although I was interested primarily in my area of expertise chemical and biological weapons my notes show that Mr. Libby consistently steered our conversation back to the administration's nuclear claims," Miller wrote Sunday in The Times.

"His main theme echoed that of other senior officials: that contrary to Mr. Wilson's criticism, the administration had had ample reason to be concerned about Iraq's nuclear capabilities based on the regime's history of weapons development, its use of unconventional weapons and fresh intelligence reports," she said.

Wilson's criticism came after the CIA had sent him to Africa to check out intelligence that Iraq had an agreement with the government of Niger to acquire uranium yellowcake. When refined, it can be used in nuclear weapons. Wilson's trip prompted his later criticism.

Libby said CIA Director George Tenet had never even heard of Wilson and that a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq firmly concluded that Iraq was seeking uranium. A classified portion of the estimate contained dissent on that point.

Miller said she "pressed Mr. Libby to discuss additional information that was in the more detailed, classified version of the estimate."

"According to my interview notes, though, it appears that Mr. Libby said little more than that the assessments of the classified estimate were even stronger than those in the unclassified version," Miller wrote.

In the end, Tenet said the CIA should never have let President Bush in his State of the Union address repeat a British report that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

U.S. intelligence analysts could not corroborate it. The president's deputy national security adviser at the time, Stephen Hadley, apologized as well, saying he had received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from Tenet several months before the president's address raising objections to the assertion.

Libby's Letter to Miller Raises 'Troubling' Issues

NEW YORK New details about Judith Miller's decision to cooperate in the CIA leak probe are raising questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and his defense lawyer tried to steer the New York Times reporter's testimony.

The dispute arose as the newspaper on Sunday detailed three conversations that Miller had with the Cheney aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in the summer of 2003 about Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson and Wilson's wife, covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

The issue over the contacts between representatives for Miller and Libby has arisen even though Libby's lawyer insists his client granted an unconditional waiver of confidentiality more than a year ago for the reporter to testify.VIEWS

The criminal investigation into the leaking of Plame's identity is nearing an end, and two Democratic senators said any Bush administration aide indicted in the probe ought to step aside.

Bush should return to the standard he first set when he said that anyone involved in the leak would be fired rather than stick a later statement that anyone convicted of a crime would be ousted, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Presidential aide Karl Rove and Libby "have been implicated directly in an effort to discredit Joe Wilson," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat. Durbin told "Fox News Sunday" if Rove or Libby are indicted, "the tradition is they should be removed."

Rove gave grand jury testimony Friday — his fourth appearance. He was warned ahead of time by the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, that there is no guarantee he would escape indictment.

Rove did not initially tell investigators that he had a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Wilson and his wife's status as a CIA officer.

"There's no question that, when you don't reveal something that appears to be material to an investigator initially, it raises questions in a prosecutor's mind and perhaps a grand juror's mind," said Joseph diGenova, a U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration.

"But it's also true, for those of us who have had witnesses as government attorneys and as defense attorneys, that people do forget things," he told ABC's "This Week."

In urging her to cooperate with prosecutors, Libby wrote Miller while she was still in jail in September, "I believed a year ago, as now, that testimony by all will benefit all. ... The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."

One of Miller's lawyers, Robert Bennett, said on ABC that Libby's letter was "a very stupid thing to do."

When asked whether he thought Libby's letter was an attempt to steer her prospective testimony, Bennett said, "I wouldn't say the answer to that is yes, but it was very troubling."

In a first-person account in the Times, Miller said that in her recent grand jury testimony, Fitzgerald asked her "whether I thought Mr. Libby had tried to shape my testimony."

Miller said she told the special counsel that Libby's letter could be perceived as an effort by Libby "to suggest that I, too, would say that we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity." But she added that her notes of the conversations "suggested that we had discussed her job" at the CIA and not her name.

Miller wrote Plame's name in the same notebook she used when taking notes of her Libby interviews in 2003, but the reporter said she did not think she had gotten the name from Libby. She said she could not recall from whom she got the name.

The Times reported that over a year ago Tate passed along to Miller lawyer Floyd Abrams information about Libby's grand jury testimony — that the White House aide had not told Miller the name or undercover status of Plame.

Miller told the newspaper that Abrams gave her the following description of a conversation Abrams had with Tate: "He was pressing about what you would say. When I wouldn't give him an assurance that you would exonerate Libby, if you were to cooperate, he then immediately gave me this, 'Don't go there,' or, 'We don't want you there.'"

In an e-mail message to the Times on Friday, Tate called Miller's interpretation "outrageous.""I never once suggested that she should not testify," Tate wrote. "It was just the opposite. I told Mr. Abrams that the waiver was voluntary."

Tate added, "'Don't go there' or 'We don't want you there' is not something I said, would say, or ever implied or suggested." Top Worldwide: Cheney May Be Entangled in CIA Leak Investigation, People Say

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- A special counsel is focusing on whether Vice President Dick Cheney played a role in leaking a covert CIA agent's name, according to people familiar with the probe that already threatens top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis Libby.

The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, has questioned current and former officials of President George W. Bush's administration about whether Cheney was involved in an effort to discredit the agent's husband, Iraq war critic and former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, according to the people.

Fitzgerald has questioned Cheney's communications adviser Catherine Martin and former spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise and ex-White House aide Jim Wilkinson about the vice president's knowledge of the anti-Wilson campaign and his dealings on it with Libby, his chief of staff, the people said. The information came from multiple sources, who requested anonymity because of the secrecy and political sensitivity of the investigation.

New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who has now testified twice before a federal grand jury probing the case after spending 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with Fitzgerald, wrote in yesterday's New York Times that Fitzgerald asked her whether the vice president ``had known what his chief aide,'' Libby, ``was doing and saying'' regarding Wilson, a critic of the war in Iraq.

Fitzgerald has told lawyers involved in the case that he hopes to conclude soon -- the grand jury's term expires Oct. 28, although it could be extended -- and there is a growing sense among knowledgeable observers that the outcome will involve serious criminal charges. ``Fitzgerald is putting together a big case,'' Washington attorney Robert Bennett, who represents Miller, said on the ABC-TV program ``This Week'' yesterday.

Possible Charges

The charges could range from a broad conspiracy case to more narrowly drawn indictments for obstruction of justice or perjury, according to lawyers involved in the case. Charges are considered less likely on the law that initially triggered Fitzgerald's probe, which makes it illegal to deliberately unmask an undercover intelligence agent, because of the difficulty in meeting that statute's exacting standards for prosecution.

Lea Anne McBride, a Cheney spokesman, declined to comment yesterday on whether the vice president, 64, has been contacted by Fitzgerald about his status in the case, except to say: ``This is an ongoing investigation, and we are fully cooperating.'' Randall Samborn, a Fitzgerald spokesman, declined to comment. Calls to Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, and Joseph Tate, Libby's lawyer, weren't returned.

There's no indication Fitzgerald is considering criminal charges against the vice president, who gave unsworn testimony to investigators last year. One option for Fitzgerald is to outline his findings about Cheney's role if he files a final report on the investigation.

Questioned Officials

Fitzgerald, 45, has also questioned administration officials about any knowledge Bush may have had of the campaign against Wilson. Yet most administration observers have noted that on Iraq, as with most matters, it's Cheney who has played the more hands-on role.

One lawyer intimately involved in the case, who like the others demanded anonymity, said one reason Fitzgerald was willing to send Miller to jail to compel testimony was because he was pursuing evidence the vice president may have been aware of the specifics of the anti-Wilson strategy.

And both U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan and an appellate-court panel -- including David Tatel, a First Amendment advocate -- said they ruled in Fitzgerald's favor because of the gravity of the case.

Pace of Probe

Katy Harriger, a political scientist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has written extensively about special-counsel investigations, said the pace and trajectory of Fitzgerald's probe suggests it will end with the indictment of Rove, Libby or both.

Harriger said she anticipates indictments in part because of the special prosecutor's willingness to jail Miller. ``That's not something you do unless you really have something more going on that isn't obvious to the public,'' she said.

Larry Barcella, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said the recent activity in the case suggests criminal charges are likely, although not in connection with the 1982 law making it illegal to disclose a covert agent's identity.

A more likely focus is possible ``false statements, conspiracy or obstruction of justice,'' said Barcella, now a defense lawyer for the Washington-based law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. ``It's obviously not good that Rove and Libby have spent so much time before the grand jury.''

An Active Participant

To make a case against Cheney as part of a conspiracy indictment, Fitzgerald would have to show the vice president was an active participant in a decision to smear Wilson, Barcella said. ``It's a case most easily made if you can prove a person knowingly entered into an agreement to do something illegal,'' he said. ``Beyond that, it can be tricky.''

Fitzgerald's status differs in one potentially important respect from the independent counsels who investigated alleged wrongdoing during earlier administrations. They reported to a panel of appellate judges, while Fitzgerald reports to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who at least theoretically must approve any indictment.

Given the prospect of both protracted criminal cases and then civil lawsuits, it now seems possible the issue will bedevil the final years of Bush's presidency, much as the Iran- contra affair burdened President Ronald Reagan's second term and the Monica Lewinsky scandal plagued President Bill Clinton's.

No Leaks

While there have been virtually no leaks out of Fitzgerald's office, and even the subjects of his investigation are unsure about his intentions, White House officials and Bush supporters are fearful that recent developments spell legal jeopardy for Rove, the central strategist behind Bush's political campaigns and much of his presidency, and Libby, a key architect of the Iraq war strategy.

When the investigation began, White House officials asserted that neither Rove nor Libby played any role in the outing of Plame, and both aides told Fitzgerald that they learned of her identity from journalists.

In her Times account, Miller said she told Fitzgerald and the grand jury that Libby, 55, raised the subject of Wilson's wife during a meeting with Miller on June 23, 2003. That was before Wilson, 55, went public in a Times op-ed piece with his accusation that Bush and his aides had ``twisted'' intelligence findings to justify invading Iraq, although administration officials knew he was privately critical.

Contracted Account

While Miller didn't say Libby had identified Plame as a covert agent, her account calls into question Libby's assertion that he first learned of Plame's identity from reporters.

Miller, 57, said she went to jail rather than testify because, unlike other reporters, she didn't feel Libby had given her specific and voluntary permission to speak about their confidential conversations. She relented when Libby contacted her by telephone and letter last month, saying he had always expected her to testify.

Those communications with Miller may pose legal problems for Libby. His letter to her stated that ``the public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me.''

Miller wrote in her Times article that Fitzgerald asked her to read that portion of the letter aloud to the grand jurors and asked for her reaction to Libby's words. She said that part of the letter had ``surprised me 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.''

`Stupid Thing to Do'

Bennett, Miller's attorney, yesterday called that part of Libby's letter ``a very stupid thing to do.'' Other lawyers suggested it could become part of any obstruction-of-justice charge Fitzgerald might bring.

Rove's testimony also has been contradicted by others, such as Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. He said his July 2003 conversation with the White House aide focused more on Wilson and his wife than Rove had testified, while adding Rove had not identified her by name. There is also at least one discrepancy between Rove's version and that of columnist Robert Novak, who first identified Plame as a Central Intelligence Agency operative in July 2003, according to persons familiar with their accounts.

Rove, 54, returned to the grand jury for a fourth time on Oct. 14 and testified for more than four hours. His lawyer, Luskin, who has spoken frequently with reporters, has gone from public optimism that his client faces little legal danger to cautiously noting only that Fitzgerald hasn't told them Rove is a ``target.''

Wilson's Assignment

Wilson was dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports, since discredited, that Saddam Hussein's regime was trying to buy uranium in Niger as part of a nuclear- weapons program. After Bush cited similar reports in his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union speech and the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of that year, Wilson began telling some journalists anonymously that the claim was questionable.

That prompted behind-the-scenes administration attempts to discredit Wilson. In his June 2003 meeting with Miller, Libby told her, in the context of a conversation critical of the CIA, that Wilson's wife worked for the spy agency, according to an account published in the Times yesterday.

Wilson went public with his criticism on July 6, 2003. In his Times piece, he concluded: ``Some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.''

Talked with Reporters

Over the next week, Libby and Rove talked to reporters, on the condition they not be identified, about Wilson's article and the fact that his CIA-employed wife may have had a role in giving him the Niger assignment.

Plame's identity was first published by Novak on July 14. He cited ``two senior administration officials'' as the sources of the information that Plame, 42, suggested Wilson for the Niger trip. Novak hasn't commented publicly on those sources.

Miller never wrote a story about Wilson or his wife -- although in one of her notebooks, dated July 8, 2003, a notation appears for ``Valerie Flame.''

One of the subplots is the role played by the New York Times. In addition to Miller's personal account, the Times yesterday published a separate 5,800-word piece that criticized both Miller and the way the newspaper handled the story.

Never Saw Notes

The article reported the paper's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and its executive editor, Bill Keller, unequivocally supported their reporter in her legal battle although ``they knew few details about Ms. Miller's conversations with her confidential source,'' and ``did not review'' her notes.

Miller, who wrote many influential pre-war war stories about Hussein's purported weapons of mass destruction that the Times later acknowledged were flawed, told the grand jury she recommended in 2003 that the newspaper pursue the Plame story. Jill Abramson, the newspaper's managing editor, said Miller never made any such recommendation.

In an interview yesterday, Wilson said that once the criminal questions are settled, he and his wife may file a civil lawsuit against Bush, Cheney and others seeking damages for the alleged harm done to Plame's career.

If they do so, the current state of the law makes it likely that the suit will be allowed to proceed -- and Bush and Cheney will face questioning under oath -- while they are in office. The reason for that is a unanimous 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against then-President Bill Clinton could go forward immediately, a decision that was hailed by conservatives at the time.

Miller's Lawyer Says Aide May Face 'Problem' in Probe

Attorney for Reporter Cites Possibility of Conflicting Testimony

By Walter Pincus and Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 17, 2005; A03

Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has "a problem" in the investigation of the leak of a CIA operative's identity if his testimony conflicts with information given to the grand jury by New York Times reporter Judith Miller, her lawyer said yesterday.

Robert S. Bennett, speaking on the ABC program "This Week" on the day the Times disclosed new information about three conversations Miller had with Libby about the CIA employment of a White House critic's wife, said that "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, referring to CIA operative Valerie Plame, the woman at the center of the leak investigation. Miller told prosecutors that "to the best of her recollection she did not know of" Plame's employment at the CIA "before she spoke to Mr. Libby," he said.

Bennett would not speculate whether Libby was trying to steer Miller's eventual testimony -- an action that could be considered an attempt to obstruct justice, through an alleged suggestion by his lawyer and language in a personal letter sent to her last month that encouraged her to testify.

But he did call Libby's reference to part of the Sept. 15 letter to Miller "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.

The details of Miller's exchanges with Libby come as special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald appears to be winding up his 22-month investigation of whether any government official leaked Plame's name to retaliate for criticism of the administration by Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. The grand jury's term will expire Oct. 28.

Fitzgerald's investigation began in December 2003 as an inquiry into whether disclosure of Plame's identity as a CIA operative to columnist Robert D. Novak by two senior administration officials was a violation of federal law. Novak, in his column of July 14, 2003, disclosed the name of Wilson's wife, described her as a CIA "operative," and described her alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip to Niger to determine whether Iraq was seeking uranium from that country.

But over the past year, Fitzgerald's inquiry has apparently broadened. Some people familiar with the case believe he is trying to determine whether the leak of Plame's identity was part of a conspiracy within the Bush administration to discredit Wilson for his statements critical of the White House's use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Karl Rove, President Bush's senior political adviser, who testified before the grand jury for the fourth time on Friday, is another possible target of Fitzgerald's inquiry. Rove told Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper about the CIA employment of Wilson's wife two days before Novak's column appeared, and did not tell investigators about that conversation when first interviewed, according to lawyers familiar with his testimony.

Joseph E. diGenova, a U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration and former independent counsel who investigated the leak of information about President Bill Clinton's passport file, said that "there's no question that when you don't reveal something that appears to be material to an investigator initially, it raises questions in a prosecutor's mind and perhaps a grand juror's mind."

Speaking on ABC, he added that Fitzgerald has to determine whether that initial failure to disclose "was purposeful or an accident."

Bennett said: "Fitzgerald is putting together a big case, and he's looking for little pieces of a puzzle."

Miller, in her article in yesterday's Times, said she had conversations with Libby that took place on June 23, July 8 and July12, 2003. All three occurred before Plame's identity was publicly disclosed in Novak's column. According to Miller's notes, Libby spoke about Wilson's wife during all three conversations and associated her with the CIA.

The possibility of an obstruction-of-justice charge arises out of separate events, both associated with Miller's refusal to testify about her conversations with Libby until she felt she had a completely voluntary waiver of their confidentiality agreement. Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

According to the Times story, one of Miller's lawyers, Floyd Abrams, was authorized in the summer of 2004 to talk to Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, about whether Libby, who had signed a paper waiver, "really wanted her to testify." The story said that "Tate had said she was free to testify," but Abrams added that "Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife."

With that information, the Times said, Miller concluded that Libby was sending her a message that he did not want her to testify. The newspaper added that "Mr. Tate called Ms. Miller's interpretation 'outrageous.' "

Yesterday, Bennett would not say that Tate was trying to steer Miller's testimony, but that he thought it "complicated things" and that "Judy felt she did not have the clear personal waiver she needed."

In an interview yesterday, Abrams declined to endorse Miller's account that Libby did not want her to testify unless she was going to exonerate him. "That's Judy's interpretation," Abrams said. Tate "certainly asked me what Judy would say, but that's an entirely proper question."

Abrams also minimized Miller's assertion that another source may have given her the name "Valerie Flame," as she recorded it in the same notebook used for her first interview of Libby. Abrams said others may have mentioned Plame only "in passing. . . . The central and essentially only figure who had information was Libby."

In mid-September, with Miller having been in jail for more than two months, further negotiations involving Fitzgerald, Tate and Miller's lawyers, including Bennett, took place. The result was the Sept. 15 letter from Libby to Miller, in which he again told her that he wanted her to testify. But the letter included this sentence: "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."

Bennett said the sentence "was a very stupid thing to put in a letter," and though he would notsay it was another possible attempt to steer her testimony, "it was a close call and she was troubled by it."

According to Miller's first-person account, Fitzgerald asked during her grand jury testimony about Libby's letter. Miller said, "This portion of the letter had surprised me, because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say that we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity." But she added that "my notes suggested that we had discussed her job."

Staff writer Jim VandeHei contributed to this report.

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