Watergate II : Text of Fitzgerald news conference


Richard Moore



Friday, October 28, 2005 · Last updated 1:45 p.m. PT 

Text of Fitzgerald news conference 


A text of the statement by Special Prosecutor Patrick
Fitzgerald at Friday's news conference on the CIA leak
investigation, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions:

FITZGERALD: Good afternoon. I'm Pat Fitzgerald. I'm the
United States attorney in Chicago, but I'm appearing
before you today as the Department of Justice special
counsel in the CIA leak investigation.

Joining me, to my left, is Jack Eckenrode, the special
agent in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, who has led
the team of investigators and prosecutors from day one in
this investigation.

A few hours ago, a federal grand jury sitting in the
District of Columbia returned a five-count indictment
against I. Lewis Libby, also known as Scooter Libby, the
vice president's chief of staff.

The grand jury's indictment charges that Mr. Libby
committed five crimes. The indictment charges one count of
obstruction of justice of the federal grand jury, two
counts of perjury and two counts of false statements.

Before I talk about those charges and what the indictment
alleges, I'd like to put the investigation into a little

Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact
that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not
only was it classified, but it was not widely known
outside the intelligence community.

Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates
had no idea she had another life.

The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well-known,
for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's
important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that
it be protected not just for the officer, but for the
nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first
sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak
published a column on July 14th, 2003.

But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that
Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson's wife,
Valerie, worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have
told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of
2003 about Valerie Wilson.

Now, something needs to be borne in mind about a criminal

I recognize that there's been very little information
about this criminal investigation, but for a very good

It may be frustrating when investigations are conducted in
secret. When investigations use grand juries, it's
important that the information be closely held.

So let me tell you a little bit about how an investigation

Investigators do not set out to investigate the statute,
they set out to gather the facts.

It's critical that when an investigation is conducted by
prosecutors, agents and a grand jury they learn who, what,
when, where and why. And then they decide, based upon
accurate facts, whether a crime has been committed, who
has committed the crime, whether you can prove the crime
and whether the crime should be charged.

Agent Eckenrode doesn't send people out when $1 million is
missing from a bank and tell them, "Just come back if you
find wire fraud." If the agent finds embezzlement, they
follow through on that.

That's the way this investigation was conducted. It was
known that a CIA officer's identity was blown, it was
known that there was a leak. 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.

And, given that national security was at stake, it was
especially important that we find out accurate facts.

There's another thing about a grand jury investigation.
One of the obligations of the prosecutors and the grand
juries is to keep the information obtained in the
investigation secret, not to share it with the public.

And, as frustrating as that may be for the public, that is
important because, the way our system of justice works, if
information is gathered about people and they're not
charged with a crime, we don't hold up that information
for the public to look at. We either charge them with a
crime or we don't.

And that's why we've safeguarded information here to date.

But as important as it is for the grand jury to follow the
rules and follow the safeguards to make sure information
doesn't get out, it's equally important that the witnesses
who come before a grand jury, especially the witnesses who
come before a grand jury who may be under investigation,
tell the complete truth.

It's especially important in the national security area.
The laws involving disclosure of classified information in
some places are very clear, in some places they're not so

And grand jurors and prosecutors making decisions about
who should be charged, whether anyone should be charged,
what should be charged, need to make fine distinctions
about what people knew, why they knew it, what they
exactly said, why they said it, what they were trying to
do, what appreciation they had for the information and
whether it was classified at the time.

Those fine distinctions are important in determining what
to do. That's why it's essential when a witness comes
forward and gives their account of how they came across
classified information and what they did with it that it
be accurate.

That brings us to the fall of 2003. When it was clear that
Valerie Wilson's cover had been blown, investigation
began. And in October 2003, the FBI interviewed Mr. Libby.
Mr. Libby is the vice president's chief of staff. He's
also an assistant to the president and an assistant to the
vice president for national security affairs.

The focus of the interview was what it that he had known
about Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, what he knew about
Ms. Wilson, what he said to people, why he said it, and
how he learned it.

And, to be frank, Mr. Libby gave the FBI a compelling

What he told the FBI is that essentially he was at the end
of a long chain of phone calls. He spoke to reporter Tim
Russert, and during the conversation Mr. Russert told him
that, "Hey, do you know that all the reporters know that
Mr. Wilson's wife works at the CIA?"

And he told the FBI that he learned that information as if
it were new, and it struck him. So he took this
information from Mr. Russert and later on he passed it on
to other reporters, including reporter Matthew Cooper of
Time magazine, reporter Judith Miller of The New York

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on
on July 12th, 2003, two days before Mr. Novak's column,
that he passed it on understanding that this was
information he had gotten from a reporter, that he didn't
even know if it was true.

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on
to the reporters he made clear that he did know if this
were true. This was something that all the reporters were
saying and, in fact, he just didn't know and he wanted to
be clear about it.

Later, Mr. Libby went before the grand jury on two
occasions in March of 2004. He took an oath and he
testified. And he essentially said the same thing.

He said that, in fact, he had learned from the vice
president earlier in June 2003 information about Wilson's
wife, but he had forgotten it, and that when he learned
the information from Mr. Russert during this phone call he
learned it as if it were new.

When he passed the information on to reporters Cooper and
Miller late in the week, he passed it on thinking it was
just information he received from reporters; that he told
reporters that, in fact, he didn't even know if it were
true. He was just passing gossip from one reporter to
another at the long end of a chain of phone calls.

It would be a compelling story that will lead the FBI to
go away, if only it were true. It is not true, according
to the indictment.

In fact, Mr. Libby discussed the information about Valerie
Wilson at least half a dozen times before this
conversation with Mr. Russert ever took place, not to
mention that when he spoke to Mr. Russert, Mr. Russert and
he never discussed Valerie Wilson or Wilson's wife.

He didn't learn it from Mr. Russert. But if he had, it
would not have been new at the time.

Let me talk you through what the indictment alleges.

The indictment alleges that Mr. Libby learned the
information about Valerie Wilson at least three times in
June of 2003 from government officials.

Let me make clear there was nothing wrong with government
officials discussing Valerie Wilson or Mr. Wilson or his
wife and imparting the information to Mr. Libby.

But in early June, Mr. Libby learned about Valerie Wilson
and the role she was believed to play in having sent Mr.
Wilson on a trip overseas from a senior CIA officer on or
around June 11th, from an undersecretary of state on or
around June 11th, and from the vice president on or about
June 12th.

It's also clear, as set forth in the indictment, that some
time prior to July 8th he also learned it from somebody
else working in the Vice President's Office.

So at least four people within the government told Mr.
Libby about Valerie Wilson, often referred to as Wilson's
wife, working at the CIA and believed to be responsible
for helping organize a trip that Mr. Wilson took overseas.

In addition to hearing it from government officials, it's
also alleged in the indictment that at least three times
Mr. Libby discussed this information with other government

It's alleged in the indictment that on June 14th of 2003,
a full month before Mr. Novak's column, Mr. Libby
discussed it in a conversation with a CIA briefer in which
he was complaining to the CIA briefer his belief that the
CIA was leaking information about something or making
critical comments, and he brought up Joe Wilson and
Valerie Wilson.

It's also alleged in the indictment that Mr. Libby
discussed it with the White House press secretary on July
7th, 2003, over lunch. What's important about that is that
Mr. Libby, the indictment alleges, was telling Mr.
Fleischer something on Monday that he claims to have
learned on Thursday.

In addition to discussing it with the press secretary on
July 7th, there was also a discussion on or about July 8th
in which counsel for the vice president was asked a
question by Mr. Libby as to what paperwork the Central
Intelligence Agency would have if an employee had a spouse
go on a trip.

So that at least seven discussions involving government
officials prior to the day when Mr. Libby claims he
learned this information as if it were new from Mr.
Russert. And, in fact, when he spoke to Mr. Russert, they
never discussed it.

But in addition to focusing on how it is that Mr. Libby
learned this information and what he thought about it,
it's important to focus on what it is that Mr. Libby said
to the reporters.

In the account he gave to the FBI and to the grand jury
was that he told reporters Cooper and Miller at the end of
the week, on July 12th. And that what he told them was he
gave them information that he got from other reporters;
other reporters were saying this, and Mr. Libby did not
know if it were true. And in fact, Mr. Libby testified
that he told the reporters he did not even know if Mr.
Wilson had a wife.

And, in fact, we now know that Mr. Libby discussed this
information about Valerie Wilson at least four times prior
to July 14th, 2003: on three occasions with Judith Miller
of The New York Times and on one occasion with Matthew
Cooper of Time magazine.

The first occasion in which Mr. Libby discussed it with
Judith Miller was back in June 23rd of 2003, just days
after an article appeared online in The New Republic which
quoted some critical commentary from Mr. Wilson.

After that discussion with Judith Miller on June 23rd,
2003, Mr. Libby also discussed Valerie Wilson on July 8th
of 2003.

During that discussion, Mr. Libby talked about Mr. Wilson
in a conversation that was on background as a senior
administration official. And when Mr. Libby talked about
Wilson, he changed the attribution to a former Hill

During that discussion, which was to be attributed to a
former Hill staffer, Mr. Libby also discussed Wilson's
wife, Valerie Wilson, working at the CIA - and then,
finally, again, on July 12th.

In short - and in those conversations, Mr. Libby never
said, "This is something that other reporters are saying";
Mr. Libby never said, "This is something that I don't know
if it's true"; Mr. Libby never said, "I don't even know if
he had a wife."

At the end of the day, what appears is that Mr. Libby's
story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone
calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from
another, was not true.

It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of
phone calls, the first official to disclose this
information outside the government to a reporter. And then
he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly.

Now, as I said before, this grand jury investigation has
been conducted in secret. I believe it should have been
conducted in secret, not only because it's required by
those rules, but because the rules are wise. Those rules
protect all of us.

We are now going from a grand jury investigation to an
indictment, a public charge and a public trial. The rules
will be different.

But I think what we see here today, when a vice
president's chief of staff is charged with perjury and
obstruction of justice, it does show the world that this
is a country that takes its law seriously; that all
citizens are bound by the law.

But what we need to also show the world is that we can
also apply the same safeguards to all our citizens,
including high officials. Much as they must be bound by
the law, they must follow the same rules.

So I ask everyone involved in this process, anyone who
participates in this trial, anyone who covers this trial,
anyone sitting home watching these proceedings to follow
this process with an American appreciation for our values
and our dignity.

Let's let the process take place. Let's take a deep breath
and let justice process the system.

I would be remiss at this point if I didn't thank the team
of investigators and prosecutors who worked on it, led by
Agent Eckenrode, or particularly the staff under John Dion
from the counterespionage section in the Department of
Justice; Mr. (Peter) Zeidenberg from Public Integrity, as
well as the agents from the Washington field office and my
close friends in the Chicago U.S. attorney's office, all
of whom contributed to a joint effort.


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