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
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
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
“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
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.