Libby rats out his bosses

    Vice President Dick Cheney former chief of staff told a federal
    grand jury that his “superiors” told him to give secret information to
    reporters as part of the Bush administration’s defense of intelligence
    used to justify invading Iraq and a concerted White House effort to
    discredit ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Iraq war decision.

    Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in documents filed last
    month that he plans to introduce evidence that I. Lewis “Scooter”
    Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, disclosed to reporters the
    contents of a classified National Intelligence Estimate in the summer
    of 2003.

    The NIE is a report prepared by the head of the nation’s
    intelligence operations for high-level government officials, up to and
    including the president. Portions of NIEs are sometimes declassified
    and made public. It is unclear whether that happened in this instance.

    In a Jan. 23 letter to Libby’s lawyers, Fitzgerald said Libby also
    testified before the grand jury that he caused at least one other
    government official to discuss an intelligence estimate with reporters
    in July 2003. Libby has also admitted giving reporters the name of
    Valarie Plame, a covert CIA operative who is also Wilson’s wife.

    “We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified
    that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the
    press by his superiors,” Fitzgerald wrote.

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to comment. “Our
    policy is that we are not going to discuss this when it’s an ongoing
    legal proceeding,” he said.

    William Jeffress, Libby’s lawyer, said, “There is no truth at all”
    to suggestions that Libby would try to shift blame to his superiors as
    a defense against the charges.

    Libby, 55, was indicted late last year on charges that he lied to
    FBI agents and the grand jury about how he learned CIA operative
    Valerie Plame’s identity and when he subsequently told reporters. He is
    not charged with leaking classified information from an intelligence
    estimate report.

    Plame’s identity was published in July 2003 by columnist Robert
    Novak after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused
    the administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq’s efforts to buy
    uranium in Niger. The year before, the CIA had sent Wilson to Niger to
    determine the accuracy of the uranium reports.

    Wilson’s revelations cast doubt on President Bush’s claim in his
    2003 State of the Union address that Niger had sold uranium to Iraq to
    develop a nuclear weapon as one of the administration’s key
    justifications for going to war in Iraq.

    On Thursday, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said Cheney should take
    responsibility if he authorized Libby to share classified information
    with reporters.

    “These charges, if true, represent a new low in the already sordid
    case of partisan interests being placed above national security,”
    Kennedy said. “The vice president’s vindictiveness in defending the
    misguided war in Iraq is obvious. If he used classified information to
    defend it, he should be prepared to take full responsibility.”

    In the summer of 2003, White House officials _ including Libby _
    were frustrated that the media were incorrectly reporting that Cheney
    had sent Wilson to Niger and had received a report of his findings in
    Africa before the war in Iraq had begun.

    In an effort to counter those reports, Libby and other White House
    officials sought information from the CIA regarding Wilson and how his
    trip to Niger came about, according to court records.

    Fitzgerald, in his letter to Libby’s lawyers, said he plans to use
    Libby’s grand jury testimony to support evidence pertaining to the
    White House aide’s meeting with former New York Times reporter Judith
    Miller.

    During the meeting with Miller on July 8, Libby also discussed
    Plame, Fitzgerald said. “Our anticipated basis for offering such
    evidence is that such facts are inextricably intertwined with the
    narrative of the events of spring 2003, as Libby’s testimony itself
    makes plain,” the prosecutor wrote.

    Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to discuss her source.