News Orgs Win Release of Fitzgerald Files on 'Scooter' Libby

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By: Midway through his CIA leak investigation, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was pretty sure of two things: First, he wasn't going to charge White House aide I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby with revealing a covert operative. And second, he thought Libby's testimony was a bunch of lies.

Documents unsealed in the case Friday revealed that when Fitzgerald subpoenaed New York Times reporter Judith Miller in 2005, he was already building a perjury and obstruction case against Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

``Libby's account of conversations has been largely inconsistent with every other material witness to date,'' Fitzgerald wrote in court documents.

Libby was convicted in March of lying and obstructing Fitzgerald's investigation. He faces 2 years in prison unless an appeals court steps in to delay the sentence. He is the only person charged in the case.

Libby's allies have called for a pardon, largely because Libby was not the source for the 2003 newspaper article outing CIA operative Valerie Plame. They accuse Fitzgerald of running amok and using the leak investigation to trap Libby into a perjury case.

The documents unsealed Friday cut both ways.

On one hand, they show that Fitzgerald had no evidence that Libby knew Plame was a covert officer - and thus he could not be charged under a federal law protecting her identity.

On the other hand, they show that Fitzgerald believed Libby might have violated a different law protecting national defense information.

Fitzgerald never charged Libby - or anyone else - with either of those crimes.

But the documents show that Fitzgerald suspected Libby's grand jury testimony and statements to the FBI were false. That was a big part of why Fitzgerald insisted that Miller testify before his grand jury.

Libby told investigators that he learned about Plame from Cheney, forgot about it, then was surprised to hear about it from NBC newsman Tim Russert. He said he passed that second-hand information on to Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

``Miller's testimony is essential to determining whether Libby fabricated his claim,'' Fitzgerald wrote.

Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to testify. Cooper testified under a court order.

The documents were released following a request by The Associated Press and Dow Jones. The news organizations argued that Fitzgerald never needed the testimony of reporters because he knew the source of the leak all along. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the original source for the newspaper article naming Plame, has publicly stated that he came forward to prosecutors early in the case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was not persuaded by the media's argument but agreed there was no longer a need to keep much of the information sealed.

``One can safely assume that the 'cat is out of the bag' when a grand jury witness - in this case Armitage - discusses his role on the CBS Evening News,'' the court said.

Information about investigative interviews with President Bush and Cheney remain blacked out, as does information about White House political adviser Karl Rove.

Much of the information released in the documents became public during Libby's trial.


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