- NEW YORK -- Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified to a
federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by his boss,
Vice President Dick Cheney, and other White House "superiors"
in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists
to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence, according
to an article posted today by the National Journal.
- Reporter Murray Waas writes that this
information comes from attorneys familiar with the matter, and from recently
released court records. Waas has broken several stories on the Plame/CIA
leak case in recent weeks for the nonpartisan National Journal.
- "Libby specifically claimed that
in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still
highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's
purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons," Waas writes, according
to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor
Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
- "Beyond what was stated in the court
paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated
what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial:
that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials
had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information
with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after
the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified
information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's
use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
- "Libby testified to the grand jury
that he had been authorized to share parts of the NIE with journalists
in the summer of 2003 as part of an effort to rebut charges then being
made by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration
had misrepresented intelligence information to make a public case for war.
- One of those journalists was former New
York Times reporter Judith Miller. She has written that at a July 8, 2003,
meeting with Libby he offered some details from the then-classified NIE.
Libby apparently is now saying he was authorized to give her that information.
- This raises the issue of whether the
vice president knew Libby was meeting Miller that day.
- Besides sharing details of the NIE with
reporters during the effort to rebut claims by Wilson, "Libby is also
accused of telling journalists that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, had worked
for the CIA," Waas observes. "Libby and other Bush administration
officials believed that if Plame played a role in the selection of her
husband for the Niger mission, that fact might discredit him."
- A federal grand jury indicted Libby on
October 28, 2005, on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and
obstruction of justice, alleging that he concealed his role in leaking
information about Plame.
- In a January 23 letter, Fitzgerald wrote
to Libby's attorneys: "Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that
he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the
National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in the course of his interaction
with reporters in June and 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."
- The public correspondence does not mention
the identities of the "superiors" who authorized the leaking
of the classified information, "but people with firsthand knowledge
of the matter identified one of them as Cheney," Waas states. Libby
also testified that he worked closely with then-Deputy National Security
Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove
in deciding what information to leak to the press to build public support
for the war.
- In the correspondence, which emerged
last week, Fitzgerald also asserted that Libby testified that he had met
with Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, with the "purpose" of intending
"to transmit information" to her "concerning the NIE."
- Greg Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is editor of E&P.