Watergate II : Cheney’s Office Is A Focus


Richard Moore

    It is not clear whether Fitzgerald plans to charge anyone
    inside the Bush administration with a crime. But with the case
    reaching a climax -- administration officials are braced for
    possible indictments as early as this week-- it is
    increasingly clear that Cheney and his aides have been deeply
    enmeshed in events surrounding the Plame affair from the


Cheney's  Office Is  A Focus in Leak Case 
Sources Cite Role  Of Feud With CIA 

By Jim VandeHei  and Walter Pincus 
Washington Post Staff Writers 
Tuesday, October 18, 2005; A01 

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name
hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick
J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President
Cheney's office, according to lawyers familiar with the case
and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled
evidence that suggests Cheney's long-standing tensions with
the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie

In grand jury sessions, including with New York Times reporter
Judith Miller, Fitzgerald has pressed witnesses on what Cheney
may have known about the effort to push back against
ex-diplomat and Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, including
the leak of his wife's position at the CIA, Miller and others
said. But Fitzgerald has focused more on the role of Cheney's
top aides, including Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby,
lawyers involved in the case said.

One former CIA official told prosecutors early in the probe
about efforts by Cheney's office and his allies at the
National Security Council to obtain information about Wilson's
trip as long as two months before Plame was unmasked in July
2003, according to a person familiar with the account.

It is not clear whether Fitzgerald plans to charge anyone
inside the Bush administration with a crime. But with the case
reaching a climax -- administration officials are braced for
possible indictments as early as this week-- it is
increasingly clear that Cheney and his aides have been deeply
enmeshed in events surrounding the Plame affair from the

It was a request by Cheney for more CIA information that,
unknown to him, started a chain of events that led to Wilson's
mission three years ago. His staff pressed the CIA for
information about it one year later. And it was Libby who
talked about Wilson's wife with at least two reporters before
her identity became public, according to evidence Fitzgerald
has amassed and which parties close to the case have

Lawyers in the case said Fitzgerald has focused extensively on
whether behind-the-scenes efforts by the vice president's
aides and other senior Bush aides were part of a criminal
campaign to punish Wilson in part by unmasking his wife.

In a move people involved in the case read as a sign that the
end is near, Fitzgerald's spokesman yesterday told the
Associated Press that the prosecutor planned to announce his
conclusions in Washington, where the grand jury has been
meeting, instead of Chicago, where the prosecutor is based.
Some lawyers close to the case cited courthouse talk that
Fitzgerald might announce his findings as early as tomorrow,
though hard evidence about his intentions and timing remained

In the course of the investigation, Fitzgerald has been
exposed to the intense, behind-the-scenes fight between
Cheney's office and the CIA over prewar intelligence and the
vice president's central role in compiling and then defending
the intelligence used to justify the war. Miller, in a
first-person account Sunday in the Times, recalled that Libby
complained in a June 23, 2003, meeting in his office that the
CIA was engaged in "selective leaking" and a "hedging
strategy" that would make the agency look equally prescient
whether or not weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

The special prosecutor has personally interviewed numerous
officials from the CIA, White House and State Department. In
the process, he and his investigative team have talked to a
number of Cheney aides, including Mary Matalin, his former
strategist; Catherine Martin, his former communications
adviser; and Jennifer Millerwise, his former spokeswoman.  In
the case of Millerwise, she talked with the prosecutor more
than two years ago but never appeared before the grand jury,
according to a person familiar with her situation.

Starting in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks, the vice president was at the forefront of a White
House campaign to convince  Congress and the American public
that invading Iraq was central to defeating terrorists
worldwide. Cheney, a longtime proponent of toppling Saddam
Hussein, led the White House effort to build the case that
Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed a dangerous
arsenal of weapons.

Before the war, he  traveled to CIA headquarters for
briefings, an unusual move that some critics interpreted as an
effort to pressure intelligence officials into supporting his
view of the evidence. After the war, when critics started
questioning whether the White House relied on faulty
information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to
the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the
naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.

Administration officials acknowledge that Cheney was immersed
in Iraq intelligence, and pressed aides repeatedly for
information on weapons programs. He regularly requested
follow-up information from the CIA and others when a piece of
intelligence caught his eye. Wilson's trip, for example, was
triggered by a question Cheney asked during a regular morning
intelligence briefing. He had received a Defense Intelligence
Agency report alleging Iraq had sought uranium from Niger and
wanted to know what else the CIA may have known. Cheney's
office was not told ahead of time about the Wilson mission to
investigate the claim.

In the Bush White House, Cheney typically has operated
secretly, relying on advice from a tight circle of longtime
advisers, including Libby; David Addington, his counsel; and
his wife, Lynne, and two children, including Liz, a top State
Department official. But a former Cheney aide, who requested
anonymity, said it is "implausible" that Cheney himself was
involved in the leaking of Plame's name because he rarely, if
ever, involved himself in press strategy.

One fact apparently critical to Fitzgerald's inquiry is when
Libby learned about Plame and her CIA employment. Information
that has emerged so far leaves this issue murky. A former CIA
official told investigators that Cheney's office was seeking
information about Wilson in May 2003, but it's not certain
that officials with the vice president learned of the Plame
connection then.

Miller, in her account, said Libby raised the issue of Plame
in the June 23, 2003, meeting, describing her as a CIA
employee and asserting that she had arranged the  trip to
Niger. Earlier that month, Libby discussed Wilson's trip with
The Washington Post but never mentioned his  wife.

Senior administration officials said there was a document
circulated at the State Department -- before Libby talked to
Miller -- that mentioned Plame. It was drafted in June as an
administrative letter and addressed to then-Undersecretary of
State Marc Grossman, who was acting secretary at the time
since  Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Deputy Secretary
Richard L. Armitage were out of the country.

As a former State Department official involved in the process
recalled it, Grossman wanted the letter as background for a
meeting at the White House, where the discussion was focused
on then growing criticism of Bush's inclusion in his January
State of the Union speech of the allegation that Hussein had
been seeking uranium from Niger.

The letter to Grossman discussed the reasons the Bureau of
Intelligence and Research (INR) did not believe the
intelligence, which originated from foreign sources, was
accurate. It had a paragraph near the beginning, marked "(S),"
meaning it was classified secret, describing a meeting at the
CIA in February 2002, attended by another INR analyst, where
Plame  introduced her husband as the person who was to go to

Attached to the letter were the notes from the INR analyst who
had attended the session, but they were written well after the
event occurred and contained mistakes about who was there and
what was said, according to a former intelligence official who
reviewed the document in the summer of 2003.

Grossman has refused to answer questions about the letter, and
it is not clear whether he talked about it at the White House
meeting he was said to have attended, according to the former
State official.

Fitzgerald has questioned several witnesses from the CIA and
State Department before the grand jury about the INR memo,
according to lawyers familiar with the case.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company 


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