[eDebate] Lewis Libby = likely leaker
Fri Feb 6 08:08:49 CST 2004
February 4, 2004 Wednesday
LENGTH: 545 words
HEADLINE: Cheney's staff focus of probe
BYLINE: By RICHARD SALE
Federal law enforcement officials said that they have developed hard
evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of Vice President
Dick Cheney's office related to the unlawful exposure of a CIA officer's
identity last year.
The investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a Justice
Department official said.
According to these sources, John Hannah and Cheney's chief of staff Lewis
"Scooter" Libby were the two Cheney employees.
"We believe that Hannah was the major player in this," one federal law
enforcement officer said.
Calls to the vice president's office were not returned. Hannah and Libby did
not return calls.
The strategy of the FBI is to make clear to Hannah "that he faces a real
possibility of doing jail time," as a way to pressure him to name superiors,
one federal law enforcement official said.
The case centers on Valerie Plame, a CIA operative then working for the
weapons of mass destruction division, and her husband, former Ambassador
Joseph Wilson who served as ambassador to Gabon and as a senior American
diplomat in Baghdad in the early 1990s. Under President Bill Clinton, he was
head of African affairs until he retired in 1998, according to press
Wilson was sent by the Bush administration in March 2002 to check on an
allegation made by Bush in his State of the Union address the previous
winter, that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from the nation of Niger.
Wilson returned with a report that said the claim was "highly doubtful."
On June 12, Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus revealed that an unnamed
diplomat had "given a negative report" on the claim and then on July 6, as
the Bush administration was widely accused of manipulating intelligence to
get American public opinion behind a war with Iraq, Wilson published an
Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, in which he accused the Bush
administration of "misrepresenting the facts," asking, "What else are they
According to one administration official, "The White House was really
pissed, and began to contact six journalists in order to plant stories to
discredit Wilson," according to New York Times and other accounts.
As Pincus said in a Sept. 29 radio broadcast, "The reason for putting out
the story about Wilson's wife working for the CIA was to undermine the
credibility of (Wilson's) mission for the agency in Niger. Wilson, as the
last top diplomat in Iraq at the time of the Gulf War, had credibility
beyond his knowledge of Africa, which was his specialty. So his going to
Niger to check the allegation that Iraq had sought uranium there and
returning to say he had no confirmation was considered very credible."
Eight days later, columnist Robert Novak wrote a column in which he named
Wilson's wife and revealed she was "an agency operative on weapons of mass
destruction." Since Plame was working undercover, it exposed her and, in the
opinion of some, ruined her usefulness and her career.
It also violated a 1982 law that prohibits revealing the identity of U.S.
On Oct. 7, Bush said that unauthorized disclosure of an undercover CIA
officer's identity was "a criminal matter" and the Justice Department had
begun its investigation into the source of the leak.
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