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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Libby Says Prosecutor Trying to Keep Post

The Associated Press
Friday, March 31, 2006; 7:47 PM

WASHINGTON -- Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is narrowing the description of his powers in an effort to counter calls for dismissal of the criminal case he brought against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, defense lawyers said Friday.

In a 24-page filing in federal court, the legal team for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby said Fitzgerald and the former Justice Department official who appointed him, James Comey, are changing the broad mandate the prosecutor was handed to probe the leak in the Valerie Plame affair.

Libby is under indictment on five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI about how he learned of Plame's CIA identity and what he told reporters about her. Plame's CIA status was exposed on July 14, 2003, by conservative columnist Robert Novak, eight days after Plame's husband accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction.

The defense attorneys say assignment of unsupervised and undirected power to Fitzgerald requires that he be relieved of his duties in the investigation and that all actions he has taken be voided.

Fitzgerald's appointment violates federal law, the defense attorneys say, because his investigation was not supervised by the attorney general. They say only Congress can approve such an arrangement.

"The government attempts to salvage the appointment by submitting two affidavits recently prepared by Mr. Comey and Mr. Fitzgerald, claiming that their previously undisclosed, subjective understanding of the appointment was narrower," Libby's lawyers wrote. "Mr. Comey now asserts that `it was my intention that the special counsel would follow substantive department policies' in exercising that authority."

"Similarly, despite the fact that as recently as August 2004 Mr. Fitzgerald characterized himself as `the functional equivalent of the attorney general in this matter,' he now insists in response to Mr. Libby's challenge that he always `understood' he had no authority to expand his jurisdiction and that he was required to follow certain substantive department policies," the court papers added.

© 2006 The Associated Press