Date registered: Sep 2004
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RE: W's classified endgame
Libby Says Bush, Cheney Didn't Authorize CIA Agent's Name Leak
April 13 (Bloomberg) -- A former top administration official said President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney authorized him to discuss with reporters intelligence on Iraq's weapons program and didn't authorize leaking a CIA agent's name.
Former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, in documents filed late last night in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said Bush and Cheney only authorized him to disclose once-classified details from a National Intelligence Estimate paper that they believed supported the president's claims that Iraq was attempting to buy nuclear material in Niger.
Libby has been indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to FBI investigators about whether anyone in the administration revealed the identity of former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in an April 5 court filing, tied Bush for the first time to an attempt to counter critics of the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, suggesting he used Libby to funnel information to reporters.
Any argument by the government that the case involves only Libby and Cheney's office ``is a fairy tale,'' said the 26-page document filed by Libby's lawyers. ``Mr. Libby's actions were authorized at the highest levels of the executive branch.''
Libby's attorneys made clear they intend to call as a witness Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, to testify ``regarding Mr. Libby's conversations with Mr. Rove concerning reporters' inquiries about Ms. Wilson.''
Rove has testified at least three times before the grand jury hearing evidence in the case. He hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing.
Dispute Over Evidence
Fitzgerald and Libby are disputing how many government records, documents and memoranda Cheney's former chief of staff is entitled to as he prepares his defense for his perjury trial in January 2007.
Fitzgerald last week cited Libby's grand jury testimony in asserting that Bush authorized disclosure of classified information on Iraq's weapons program to rebut war critics. The special counsel didn't allege that Bush authorized aides to divulge the identity of Plame.
Libby's lawyers underscored that point in their response last night. ``Consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning Ms. Wilson by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else,'' they said.
The revelation of Plame's identity in a July 2003 newspaper column prompted a Justice Department investigation. Fitzgerald's account didn't suggest Bush violated any rule or law governing the handling of classified material.
Bush has since acknowledged declassifying the document, saying he sought to help counter criticisms of pre-war U.S. intelligence. He acted under an executive order governing the distribution of classified information that President Bill Clinton signed in 1995 and Bush modified in March 2003.
Talks With Reporters
Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, said in an essay published July 6, 2003 in the New York Times that the administration ``twisted'' some of the intelligence about Iraq's weapons program. Libby, 55, met two days later with Judith Miller, then a Times reporter, to rebut Wilson's questioning of the justification for invading Iraq.
Fitzgerald wrote last week that Libby testified that Cheney ``advised him that the president had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions'' of a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons to Miller.
Libby ``testified that he was specifically authorized in advance of the meeting to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller on that occasion because it was thought that the NIE was `pretty definitive' against what Ambassador Wilson had said and that the vice president thought it was `very important' for the key judgments of the NIE to come out,'' Fitzgerald said.
`Background' for Reporter
Cheney also directed Libby on July 12, 2003 to provide ``background'' to Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about a trip Wilson took in 2002 at the behest of the CIA to investigate claims that Iraq tried to buy nuclear material in Niger, according to Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald contends that Libby isn't entitled to unlimited access to government files unless he can establish a direct connection to allegations included in the indictments filed against him.
Libby's attorneys said the government has gathered more than 200,000 pages of documents and turned over about 14,000 pages of classified and unclassified records - ``less than 10 percent of the government's file.''
``On numbers alone, the government's document production has been exceptionally meager, and it appears even more paltry and insufficient in light of all of the complicated factual issues in this case,'' Libby's filing stated.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald, declined to comment on Libby's response. Calls to the White House weren't immediately returned.