Libby: White House 'Superiors' OK'd Leaks:
By TONI LOCY
-- -- A former top aide to Vice President Dick
Cheney told a federal grand jury that his superiors authorized
him to give secret information to reporters as part of the Bush
administration's defense of intelligence used to justify
invading Iraq, according to court papers.
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.
"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
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
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.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press
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