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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Fitzgerald: Libby has all the evidence he needs

Granting a former White House aide's demands for classified documents to aid his defense in the CIA leak investigation would torpedo the case, the prosecutor is arguing.

Granting a former White House aide’s demands for classified documents
to aid his defense in the CIA leak investigation would torpedo the
case, the prosecutor is arguing.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald suggests that allowing I. Lewis
“Scooter” Libby access to the documents _ many of which Libby read or
wrote while working for Vice President Dick Cheney _ would have a
“breathtaking” impact on national security.

In arguments filed late Thursday, Fitzgerald said Libby’s lawyers
were trying to derail the perjury and obstruction case by pressing for
nearly a year’s worth of presidential daily briefs, summaries of
threats to the U.S. that are among the government’s most closely
guarded secrets.

Fitzgerald also asked U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to
protect the ongoing grand jury investigation by not forcing the release
of the identities of other “individuals” who discussed a covert CIA
officer with reporters in 2003.

In his filings, Fitzgerald also notes that he was submitting a sworn
statement, filed under seal with Walton, detailing his reasons for
keeping secret the names of people who talked to reporters, for keeping
secret the names of others involved in the investigation, and his
strategy in the ongoing grand jury probe.

The prosecutor’s public filing offers no insight into the identities
or positions held by other people who talked to reporters about the CIA
officer, other than to describe them as worthy of privacy protections
because they likely will not be charged with wrongdoing.

The filing does not reveal whether presidential adviser Karl Rove
remains under scrutiny. Fitzgerald also does not indicate whether he is
investigating Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s source, whose
existence was revealed after Libby was indicted last year.

Libby, 55, is charged with lying about how he learned CIA operative
Valerie Plame’s identity and when he subsequently told reporters.
Libby’s trial is set for January 2007.

Fitzgerald accused Libby of attempting to commit “greymail,” a
reference to past attempts by government officials charged with
wrongdoing to derail their prosecutions by trying to expose national
security secrets.

On Friday, Libby attorney John Cline denied that the defense was
trying to derail the case. “We are working lawfully and properly … to
obtain documents essential to Mr. Libby’s defense,” he said. “All we
want is a limited number of key documents that Mr. Libby either wrote
or reviewed during the most critical period in his case.”

Libby’s lawyers want the secret briefings prepared for President
Bush to show that Libby had more pressing matters on his mind than the
disclosure of Plame’s identity.

Fitzgerald dismissed Libby’s “preoccupation defense,” saying the
prosecution already has given defense attorneys more than 11,000 pages
of classified and unclassified evidence _ more than required under law.

But the defense team also wants every Presidential Daily Brief from
May 2003 to March 2004, amounting to 277 intelligence reports.

The prosecutor warned the judge that turning over such highly
classified documents would provoke a lengthy legal battle with the

Libby also is seeking access to more information about news
reporters, CIA records about Plame and any damage assessments of the
public disclosure of her identity to national security.

Fitzgerald said he has given the defense everything he has gathered
on Libby’s conversations with reporters. But the prosecutor said he is
not required to provide statements and testimony of reporters who will
be called as government witnesses at trial.

He predicted that allowing Libby to press other reporters to
identify their sources will lead to legal fights with news
organizations and delay the trial.

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 “yellowcake” in Niger. The year before, the CIA had sent Wilson
to Niger to determine the accuracy of the uranium reports.