Edward Everett Hale
CIA Probe 'Not Over' after Cheney's Top Aide Indicted
Sat Oct 29, 2005 02:17

CIA Probe 'Not Over' after Cheney's Top Aide Indicted
CNN Friday 28 October 2005

Washington - The CIA leak investigation is "not over," special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Friday after announcing charges against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

Fitzgerald said he will be keeping the grand "jury open to consider other matters." But, he said, "substantial work" is done.

Libby resigned Friday after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges related to the leak probe, including one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements.

During an afternoon news conference, Fitzgerald said, "A CIA officer's name was blown and there was a leak and we needed to figure out how that happened, who did it, why, whether a crime was committed, whether we could prove it, whether we should prove it. Given national security was at stake, it was especially important that we find out accurate facts."

Libby was charged with lying to FBI agents and to the grand jury about two conversations with reporters, Tim Russert of NBC News and Matt Cooper of Time magazine.

Libby testified that he heard CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity from Russert when, in fact, he learned of Plame's identify from a CIA official, the indictment alleged.

Libby also testified that he told Cooper that other reporters told him Plame's identity, which the indictment alleges was not the case.

The indictments were not directly related to the actual leak Plame's name.

Libby discussed Plame's identity in the summer of 2003 with reporters after her husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, wrote a highly critical op-ed column in The New York Times that challenged intelligence used as a rationale for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Descriptions of those conversations by reporters say Libby discussed Plame's identity, in part, to cast doubt in the reporters' mind about Wilson's account and criticized the CIA, the indictment alleged.

"These are very serious charges," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "They suggest a senior White House aide put politics ahead of our national security and the rule of law. This case is bigger than the leak of highly classified information. It is about how the Bush administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq."

These indictments are the first in a nearly two-year investigation.

There was no immediate response from Libby to the charges. His attorneys have previously denied that he was guilty of any criminal conduct.

Cheney said in a statement he accepted Libby's resignation "with deep regret" and said Libby must be "presumed innocent" before he is proven guilty. Libby told Cheney he was "resigning to fight the charges brought against him," the statement said.

"Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known," the statement said. "He has given many years of his life to public service and has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction."

Meanwhile, President Bush's top political strategist Karl Rove will not be indicted Friday by the federal grand jury investigating the leak, sources close to the investigation tell CNN. But, the sources said, Rove is not out of legal jeopardy as the matter is still under investigation.

Lawyers involved in the case have told CNN that Fitzgerald is focusing on whether Rove committed perjury. Rove testified four times in front of the grand jury.

'No Decision'

Rove's attorney Robert Luskin issued a statement Friday that Fitzgerald "has advised Mr. Rove that he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges."

"Mr. Rove will continue to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel's efforts to complete the investigation," Luskin's statement said. "We are confident that when the Special Counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong."

As Rove departed his home in Washington Friday morning, he told reporters, "I am going to have a great Friday and a fantastic weekend and hope you do too."

Libby's indictment came at a time when Bush's approval ratings already are at a low ebb.

This week alone the president's embattled Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, withdrew, and the number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war surpassed 2,000.

Bush suggested at the beginning of the investigation that he would fire anyone on his staff who was involved in the leak.

He appeared to set a higher standard in July, saying, "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

The event that triggered the legal and political quagmire that has put the White House on edge was a syndicated newspaper column by Robert Novak, published on July 14, 2003, about Joe Wilson.

Before Novak's column, Valerie Plame's role as a CIA officer was "not widely known" outside the intelligence community, Fitzgerald said at the news conference. The information was "classified," he said. Her friends, neighbors, and college classmates "had no idea she had another life."

A week before the column, Wilson, a retired U.S. diplomat, publicly claimed that Bush administration officials, intent on building a case to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, hyped unsupported claims that Hussein sought to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from Niger.

Novak, who also is a CNN contributor, was writing about the CIA's decision to send Wilson to the African nation in February 2002 to investigate the claims, which later wound up in Bush's 2003 State of Union address.

About midway through his column, Novak noted that Wilson "never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

An angry Wilson accused administration officials of deliberately leaking his wife's identity as a CIA operative - thus ending her career as an undercover agent - to retaliate against him for going public with his criticism.

Both Rove and Libby have denied leaking Plame's name.

Deliberately disclosing the identity of a CIA operative can be a crime, and Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was named in September 2003 as a special prosecutor to investigate after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused his office to avoid any conflict of interest.

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I
can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will
not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do,
I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God,
I will do." - Edward Everett Hale

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