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

Thursday, November 17, 2005

CIA Leak Probe Fallout Unlikely to Fade - Yahoo! News

By TONI LOCY and PETE YOST, Associated Press Writers

Controversy surrounding the leak of a CIA operative's identity showed no signs of abating Thursday, dashing any hopes White House officials had that the investigation was nearing an end.

A group of former intelligence officers urged President Bush not to pardon anyone convicted of leaking Valerie Plame's name to reporters and to pull security clearances of any White House officials implicated in the investigation.

Plame's husband went on the airwaves urging the Washington Post to conduct an inquiry into why top reporter Bob Woodward kept his editor in the dark about an interview 17 months ago with a senior administration official about Plame's identity and her work at the CIA, a conversation a month before another journalist published her name.

The Woodward revelations renewed attention to an investigation into who was responsible for leaking Plame's name, an inquiry that had appeared to be winding down after last month's indictment of a top aide to Vice President Cheney.

"Obviously, the White House thought they were through with this investigation," said Steven Reich, a senior associate counsel to President Clinton. "It appears now that that information came out earlier than anyone previously thought and it potentially could have come from a source no one previously knew about."

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, 55, Cheney's former chief of staff, was charged with lying to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned about Plame's identity and her work at the CIA and when he subsequently shared that information with reporters.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in announcing the charges three weeks ago, portrayed Libby as the government official who first revealed Plame's name to reporters. At a news conference in Chicago Thursday, Fitzgerald ducked questions about how Woodward's assertion, that he got it first and from someone other than Libby, would affect the investigation.

After Fitzgerald was tipped by Woodward's source that they had discussed Plame in June 2003, Woodward met with the prosecutor and on Monday recounted their conversation. His account, but not the source's name, was reported in Tuesday editions of the Washington Post, renewing speculation about who leaked Plame's name and how high in the administration his source resides.

"The Libby case was always going to cause heartburn for the White House," said Washington defense lawyer E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., a former federal prosecutor. "But not like this."

Barcella said the White House could've tried managing news as the Libby case moved through hearings and toward trial on a predictable schedule.

"That's the legal realm," Barcella said. But the Woodward revelations put the investigation back in "the political realm," he said. "And that can have a daily impact" with sustained media coverage.

Plame's husband said Thursday the Post should conduct an inquiry into why Woodward didn't tell his bosses what he knew about the leak until last month and why he was allowed to publicly criticize the Fitzgerald investigation as a spokesman for the newspaper.

"I would hope that the Post would take the lead from what the New York Times did and do an inquiry about how this all happened and report back to its readers," Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, told The Associated Press.

Wilson was referring to the inquiry that the Times conducted after it was criticized for the way its former reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify about a source, and her editors handled the Plame matter.

Post spokesman Eric Grant did not return calls for comment.

Also on Thursday, 16 former intelligence officers released a letter they wrote to Bush early in the week asking for a pledge to not pardon anyone involved in the leak and to pull security clearances of anyone at the White House who spoke to reporters about the CIA status of Wilson's wife.

One of the letter's authors, former CIA analyst Larry Johnson, said the pledge on security clearances "definitely ... would apply to Woodward's source."

Johnson noted that Bush ordered everyone in the administration to cooperate with Fitzgerald nearly two years ago. "Clearly, there's someone at a senior level who hasn't fully cooperated," he said.

Plame's husband wants Post to probe Woodward - Yahoo! News

By Adam Entous

Joseph Wilson, the husband of outed CIA operative Valerie Plame, called on Thursday for an inquiry by The Washington Post into the conduct of journalist Bob Woodward, who repeatedly criticized the leak investigation without disclosing his own involvement.

"It certainly gives the appearance of a conflict of interest. He was taking an advocacy position when he was a party to it," Wilson said.

Woodward testified under oath on Monday to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that a senior Bush administration official casually told him in mid-June 2003 about Plame's position at the CIA.

The surprise testimony appeared to contradict Fitzgerald's assertion that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was the first government official to divulge information to reporters about Plame. The disclosure could prolong the leak investigation as Fitzgerald pursues new leads in the case, lawyers said.

Libby's defense team contended Woodward's story undercut Fitzgerald's case against Libby, who was indicted in late October on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the criminal probe, which was launched two years ago.

Wilson, a former ambassador turned White House critic, told Reuters that The Washington Post should reveal the name of Woodward's source, and conduct an inquiry to determine why he withheld the information for more than two years from his editors and the federal prosecutor.

Before publicly disclosing his involvement in the leak case on Wednesday, Woodward was a frequent critic of Fitzgerald's investigation in television and radio appearances. Woodward has described the case as laughable and Fitzgerald's behavior as "disgraceful" and has referred to him as "a junkyard dog."

One day before Libby was charged, Woodward said he saw no evidence of criminal intent.

One of the two Post reporters who led the newspaper's coverage of the 1970s Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon, Woodward apologized to Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie on Wednesday for failing to tell him for more than two years about his involvement in the Plame matter.

Plame's cover at the CIA was blown after her husband accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to support military action against Iraq. Wilson said it was done deliberately to undercut his credibility.

Libby, who resigned from the White House after he was indicted, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have promised to mount a vigorous defense.

On Friday, Fitzgerald and news organizations will face off in court over Fitzgerald's efforts to keep documents in the Libby case secret.

Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press have asked Judge Reggie Walton to deny Fitzgerald's blanket protective order, which would bar public access to grand jury transcripts, witness statements and a wide range of other evidence in the case. Any leaks could result in civil and criminal fines, the order warns.

Libby's attorneys said in court filings that the proposed protective order was "a legitimate effort by the government to maintain the secrecy of grand jury proceedings."

Court officials said a hearing on the issue was scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

New Disclosure Could Prolong Inquiry on Leak - New York Times

This article was reported by Todd S. Purdum, David Johnston and Douglas Jehl and written by Mr. Purdum.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - The disclosure that a current or former Bush administration official told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post more than two years ago that the wife of a prominent administration critic worked for the C.I.A. threatened Wednesday to prolong a politically damaging leak investigation that the White House had hoped would soon be contained.

The revelation left the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, grappling with an unexpected new twist - one that he had not uncovered in an exhaustive inquiry - and gave lawyers for I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff and the only official charged with a crime, fresh evidence to support his defense.

Mr. Woodward's account of his surprise testimony to Mr. Fitzgerald - reported by The Post in Wednesday's issue and elaborated on in a first-person statement - now makes it apparent that he was the first journalist known to have learned the C.I.A. identity of Valerie Wilson, whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, has sharply criticized the administration's rationale for war with Iraq. [Page A22.]

He says that he was told in mid-June 2003 that Ms. Wilson worked as a C.I.A. weapons analyst, by an official who made an offhand reference that did not appear to indicate her identity was classified or secret.

Mr. Woodward said he provided sworn testimony to Mr. Fitzgerald on Monday, only after his original source went to the prosecutor to disclose their two-year-old conversation. But because Mr. Woodward said that source had still not authorized him to disclose his or her name, he set off a frantic new round of guessing about who that source might be and a wave of public denials by spokesmen for possible suspects.

A senior administration official said that neither President Bush himself, nor his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., nor his counselor, Dan Bartlett, was Mr. Woodward's source. So did spokesmen for former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; the former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet; and his deputy, John E. McLaughlin.

A lawyer for Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff who has acknowledged conversations with reporters about the case and remains under investigation, said Mr. Rove was not Mr. Woodward's source.

Mr. Cheney did not join the parade of denials. A spokeswoman said he would have no comment on a continuing investigation. Several other officials could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Woodward, perhaps the nation's single most famous reporter, never wrote about the case, even after it became the most prominent story in Washington, although he made public statements dismissing its importance. He only informed The Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr., of his knowledge last month, just before Mr. Fitzgerald indicted Mr. Libby on charges that he made false statements about his contacts with reporters and accused him of obstructing the investigation into whether the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity was a crime.

On Wednesday, Mr. Libby's lawyer, Theodore Wells, pronounced Mr. Woodward's revelation a "bombshell" that contradicted Mr. Fitzgerald's assertion that Mr. Libby was the first government official to discuss Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. connection with a journalist, Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times, on June 23, 2003.

The latest revelation left Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Post who operates with extraordinary latitude to produce best-selling books detailing the inner workings of the highest levels of government, in an unusual - and unusually uncomfortable role.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Woodward said he had apologized to Mr. Downie for not disclosing his own part in such a long-running story long ago and said he had kept a deliberately low profile to protect his sources. "The terms of engagement change when a reporter and reporters are being subpoenaed, agreeing to testify, being forced to testify, being jailed," Mr. Woodward said. "That's the new element in this. And what it did, it caused me to become even more secretive about sources, and to protect them. I couldn't do my job if I couldn't protect them. And to really make sure that I don't become part of this process, but not to be less aggressive in reporting the news."

It was not clear just what had prompted Mr. Woodward's original source to go to Mr. Fitzgerald, or whether that source had previously testified in the case. But Mr. Woodward was said to have begun making inquiries about the case before Mr. Libby's indictment, which may have been the catalyst.

If there are inconsistencies between Mr. Woodward's account and any earlier account by his source, Mr. Fitzgerald could be obliged to explore new legal implications.

The existence of Mr. Woodward's mysterious source came as a surprise to lawyers in the case, because it hinted that Mr. Fitzgerald had failed to learn a significant fact after two years of investigation, despite his reputation as a ferocious investigator who spent weeks digging out the smallest details before seeking indictments.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, declined to comment on Mr. Woodward's statement. Mr. Libby was at the federal courthouse here on Wednesday, reviewing documents to aid in his defense. Lawyers involved in the case said that while the issues raised by Mr. Woodward's new account did not go to the heart of the perjury and obstruction charges against Mr. Libby, they could cast doubt on an underlying prosecution theme: that Mr. Libby was untruthful when he told the grand jury Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. identity was common knowledge among reporters.

In fact, only a small group of officials - at the White House, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency - are believed to have known by early June 2003 about Ms. Wilson's ties to the C.I.A. They included Secretary Powell, Mr. Tenet, Mr. McLaughlin, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Libby; Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs; Carl Ford, then the head of the State Department's intelligence bureau; and Richard L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state.

Mr. Wilson did not publicly identify himself until July 6 as the former ambassador who had made a trip to Niger in 2002 on behalf of the C.I.A. to investigate a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium there. Both The New York Times, in a May 6 column by Nicholas D. Kristof, and The Washington Post, in a front-page article on June 12 by Walter Pincus, had reported about the trip, but had not identified Mr. Wilson by name.

But former government officials have said that Mr. Pincus's inquiries at the White House, the C.I.A. and other agencies about Mr. Wilson's trip prompted Mr. Libby and other officials within the administration to try to learn more about the origins of the trip.

In his formal statement in The Post, Mr. Woodward said he had mentioned to Mr. Pincus in June 2003 that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. But Mr. Pincus, who has written that he first heard about Ms. Wilson from a senior administration official in July, said he did not recall that.

"The way he describes it, which is he walked by and said something about Wilson's wife being at C.I.A., I have absolutely no memory of it at all," Mr. Pincus said in a telephone interview. "And I think he may say that my reaction was 'What!' " like I was surprised. He now thinks I may never have heard him, and said, 'What?' "

Mr. Pincus did recall a later conversation with Mr. Woodward, in October 2003, after Mr. Pincus wrote about administration officials' efforts to discredit Mr. Wilson. He said Mr. Woodward stopped by his desk to tell Mr. Pincus that he "wasn't the only one who had been told," about Ms. Wilson's identity before it was publicly revealed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003. Mr. Pincus said Mr. Woodward "asked me to keep him out of my reporting, and I agreed to do it."

Mr. Pincus said he agreed not to pursue the question of whether anyone in the administration might have contacted Mr. Woodward because "he hadn't written a story."

He continued, "I was writing that they had talked to a group of people. I don't think I named everybody."

Mr. Fitzgerald's indictment of Mr. Libby provides some clues about the small number of people who were directly involved in exchanging information about the Wilsons. It says that Mr. Libby first sought information about Ambassador Wilson's trip from Mr. Grossman, on May 29, 2003. It says that Mr. Grossman directed Mr. Ford's intelligence bureau to prepare a report about Mr. Wilson and his trip to Niger, and briefed Mr. Libby about that report as it was being completed, telling him on June 11 or 12, 2003, that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. and that State Department personnel were involved in the planning of the trip. Mr. Grossman declined to comment on Wednesday, and Mr. Ford did not reply to a telephone call and an e-mail message.

Mr. Libby also learned from a "a senior officer of the C.I.A." on or about June 12, 2003, that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. and was believed to be responsible for sending Mr. Wilson on the trip, the indictment says.

The indictment says that it was Mr. Cheney who specifically first told Mr. Libby, on or about June 12, 2003, that Ms. Wilson worked in the counterproliferation division at the C.I.A., a fact that meant that she worked within the agency's clandestine service, where many employees are undercover. It says that Mr. Libby understood that Mr. Cheney had learned the information "from the C.I.A.," and people who have been officially briefed on the investigation say that notes taken by Mr. Libby at the time say that Mr. Cheney learned it from Mr. Tenet.

Others mentioned in the indictment as having discussed Mr. Wilson's trip with Mr. Libby in June or July 2003 include Eric Edelman, then Mr. Cheney's national security adviser; Catherine Martin, then his director of public affairs; Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary; Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush's political adviser; and David Addington, the counsel to the vice president. Other administration officials known to have been interviewed by investigators include Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser and is now secretary of state; Stephen Hadley, then deputy national security adviser and now the national security adviser; Mr. Card; and Mr. Bartlett.

Mr. Woodward's statement could help Mr. Libby counter one of the main charges against him, that he lied to the grand jury about a conversation with Tim Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief, in which Mr. Libby asserted that it was Mr. Russert who told him about Ms. Wilson. The lawyers said that they could say he merely misspoke, never intending to mislead the grand jury because he honestly believed he had heard about the C.I.A. officer as the subject of gossip in news media circles.

But some legal experts were skeptical that Mr. Woodward's disclosure would significantly alter the case against Mr. Libby.

"I don't think that in a technical legal sense it matters," said Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the law school at the University of Richmond and a specialist in media law. "It's neutral as to Libby because he has been indicted for perjury and for lying, and nothing in his account seems to sanitize those lies if in fact they turn out to be lies."

Other than Mr. Libby, the only administration official publicly known to have talked with reporters about Ms. Wilson's identity is Mr. Rove.

Other mysteries remain. It is still not known who first told Mr. Novak about Ms. Wilson. In addition, Mr. Pincus has never publicly disclosed the identity of an administration official he says told him on July 12, 2003, that Mr. Wilson's trip was "a boondoggle" by his wife. Mr. Pincus has said he testified about that exchange in 2004 after his source told prosecutors about it; Mr. Novak is also believed to have testified in the case, although he has not said so publicly.

Mr. Woodward wrote that he conducted three interviews related to the investigation, which were mainly background interviews for his 2004 book, "Plan of Attack," about the Iraq war. He said that he had confidentiality agreements with each of these sources, who signed written statements releasing him from his previous pledge of secrecy.

Mr. Woodward said that he testified about a second meeting on June 20, 2003, with a second administration official who was not identified by Mr. Woodward, but whom The Post identified on its Web site Wednesday as Mr. Card. Mr. Woodward wrote that he had a list of questions to the interview that included a line that said "Joe Wilson's wife." A tape of the interview contained no indication that the subject had come up.

A third conversation was conducted by phone with Mr. Libby on June 23, 2003. Mr. Woodward told him that he was sending 18 pages of questions intended for Mr. Cheney, including one that referred to "yellowcake," the uranium ore at the center of Mr. Wilson's fact-finding trip to Africa. "I testified that I have no recollection that Wilson or his wife was discussed, and I have no notes of the conversation."

In the telephone interview, Mr. Woodward said that his goal had been "the protection of a confidential source, and aggressive reporting, and they do go hand in hand."

Richard W. Stevenson, Eric Lichtblau and Anne E. Kornblut contributed reporting for this article.

Woodward Could Be a Boon to Libby

By Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 17, 2005; A15

The revelation that The Washington Post's Bob Woodward may have been the first reporter to learn about CIA operative Valerie Plame could provide a boost to the only person indicted in the leak case: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Legal experts said Woodward provided two pieces of new information that cast at least a shadow of doubt on the public case against Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, who has been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

Woodward testified Monday that contrary to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's public statements, a senior government official -- not Libby -- was the first Bush administration official to tell a reporter about Plame and her role at the CIA. Woodward also said that Libby never mentioned Plame in conversations they had on June 23 and June 27, 2003, about the Iraq war, a time when the indictment alleges Libby was eagerly passing information about Plame to reporters and colleagues.

While neither statement appears to factually change Fitzgerald's contention that Libby lied and impeded the leak investigation, the Libby legal team plans to use Woodward's testimony to try to show that Libby was not obsessed with unmasking Plame and to raise questions about the prosecutor's full understanding of events. Until now, few outside of Libby's legal team have challenged the facts and chronology of Fitzgerald's case.

"I think it's a considerable boost to the defendant's case," said John Moustakas, a former federal prosecutor who has no role in the case. "It casts doubt about whether Fitzgerald knew everything as he charged someone with very serious offenses." Other legal experts agreed.

Moustakas said Woodward also has considerable credibility because he has been granted "unprecedented access" to the inner workings of the Bush White House. "When Woodward says this information was disclosed to me in a nonchalant and casual way -- not as if it was classified -- it helps corroborate Libby's account about himself and about the administration," Moustakas said.

According to the statement Woodward released Tuesday, he did not appear to provide any testimony that goes specifically to the question of whether Libby is guilty of two counts of perjury, two counts of providing false statements and one count of obstructing justice. The indictment outlines what many legal experts describe as a very strong case against Libby, because it shows the former Cheney aide learned about Plame from at least four government sources, including the vice president -- and not a reporter, as he testified before the grand jury.

Randall D. Eliason, former head of the public corruption unit for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District,said he doubts the Woodward account would have much effect on Libby's case, and dismissed such theories as "defense spin."

"Libby was not charged with being the first to talk to a reporter, and that is not part of the indictment," he said. "Whether or not some other officials were talking to Woodward doesn't really tell us anything about the central issue in Libby's case: What was his state of mind and intent when he was talking to the FBI and testifying in the grand jury?" Eliason added: "What this does suggest, though, is that the investigation is still very active. Hard to see how that is good news for [White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl] Rove or for anyone else in the prosecutor's cross hairs."

Since December 2003, Fitzgerald has been probing whether senior Bush administration officials illegally leaked classified information -- Plame's identity as a CIA operative -- to reporters to discredit allegations made by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Plame's name was revealed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak, eight days after Wilson publicly accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war. Rove is still under investigation.

Libby's lawyers have asked whether Fitzgerald will correct his statement that Libby was the first administration official to leak information about Plame to a reporter. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment. But a source close to the probe said there is no reason for the prosecutor to correct the record, because he specifically said at his news conference Oct. 28 that Libby was the "first official known" at that time to have provided such information to a reporter.

Still, the Libby legal team seized on Woodward's testimony, calling it a "bombshell" with the potential to upend Fitzgerald's case. After spending yesterday at the courthouse reviewing documents for the case, Libby emerged with one of this lawyers, Theodore V. Wells Jr., by his side. Wells said Libby is "very grateful to Bob Woodward for coming forward and telling the truth."

A few hours earlier Wells issued a markedly more pointed statement, saying, "Woodward's disclosures are a bombshell to Mr. Fitzgerald's case" that show at least one accusation to be "totally inaccurate." The Libby legal team plans to call a number of journalists to testify in part to show Libby was not determined to blow Plame's cover.

In an interview, Woodward said his testimony was not designed to help or hurt Libby. "My reporting and writing is as neutral as it can be," he said. "Fitzgerald asked me questions . . . I answered them."

Rove's defense team also believes he could benefit tangentially from the Woodward disclosure because it shows other officials were discussing Plame in casual ways and that others have foggy recollections of the period as well, according to a Republican close to Rove.

"It definitely raises the plausibility of Karl Rove's simple and honest lapses of memory, because it shows that there were other people discussing the matter in what Mr. Woodward described as very offhanded, casual way," a source close to Rove said. "Let's face it, we don't all remember every conversation we have about significant issues, much less those about those that are less significant."

Rove is under scrutiny for not initially disclosing his conversation about Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. Rove's defense is he simply forgot the conversation took place. Sources close to Rove said they expect a decision on whether he will be charged soon.

Staff writer Henri E. Cauvin contributed to this report.

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