Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cheney's Role In Plame Leak Scrutinized

From another excellent article by Murray Waas:

In the fall of 2003, as a federal criminal probe was just getting underway to determine who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the then-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, sought out Cheney to explain to his boss his side of the story.

The explanation that Libby offered Cheney that day was virtually identical to one that Libby later told the FBI and testified to before a federal grand jury: Libby said he had only passed along to reporters unsubstantiated gossip about Plame that he had heard from NBC bureau chief Tim Russert.

The grand jury concluded that the account was a cover story to conceal the role of Libby and other White House officials in leaking information about Plame to the press, and indicted him on five felony counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice.

At the time that Libby offered his explanation to Cheney, the vice president already had reason to know that Libby's account to him was untrue, according to sources familiar with still-secret grand jury testimony and evidence in the CIA leak probe, as well as testimony made public during Libby's trial over the past three weeks in federal court.

Yet, according to Libby's own grand jury testimony, which was made public during his trial in federal court, Cheney did nothing to discourage Libby from telling that story to the FBI and the federal grand jury. Moreover, Cheney encouraged then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan to publicly defend Libby, according to other testimony and evidence made public during Libby's trial.

If Libby is found guilty, investigators are likely to probe further to determine if Libby devised what they consider a cover story in an effort to shield Cheney. They want to know whether Cheney might have known about the leaks ahead of time or had even encouraged Libby to provide information to reporters about Plame's CIA status, the same sources said. ...

Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he told Cheney shortly after the CIA leak probe became public that even if he, Libby, had told reporters that Plame worked for the CIA, he was only repeating unsubstantiated gossip that he had heard from NBC's Russert on July 10, 2003. But notes of Libby's entered into evidence during his trial indicate that Libby learned that Plame was a CIA officer from Cheney during a June 12, 2003 telephone conversation, almost a month before Libby spoke with Russert. In addition, a senior aide to Cheney testified during Libby's trial that, after learning herself from a senior CIA official that Plame worked for the CIA, she shared that information with both Cheney and Libby during a meeting she had with both men. And Cheney himself told the special prosecutor that he regularly shared any information he learned about Plame with Libby as well, according to people familiar with Cheney's interview with the special prosecutor.

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