- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A federal judge all but resolved the protracted legal fight over classified information in the CIA leak case yesterday, helping ensure that the dispute would not derail former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s perjury and obstruction trial.

Mr. Libby is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding a CIA operative. He says he had more pressing issues on his mind and wants to discuss classified intelligence about terrorist threats and foreign nuclear programs to bolster that argument.

Prosecutors had accused Mr. Libby of demanding so much sensitive information that the government could not safely release it — leading to a dismissal — but U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton appears to have resolved that dispute.

Judge Walton, who rankled special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald last month by ruling that Mr. Libby must be allowed to discuss intelligence on Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, terrorism and other issues at trial, accepted Mr. Fitzgerald’s proposal to limit the details Mr. Libby and his attorneys can discuss.

The redacted information can provide Mr. Libby “substantially the same ability to make his defense as would disclosure of the specific classified information,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

The details of those limitations are sealed but, because it was Mr. Fitzgerald’s proposal, it’s unlikely he would come back to court later this month and argue that the limitations did not go far enough to protect government secrecy.

Neither Mr. Fitzgerald’s office nor Mr. Libby’s attorneys would comment yesterday.

The ruling helps keep the trial on track for next month. That still could be delayed, however, if Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush aide Karl Rove say they cannot testify because of separation-of-powers issues.

Although the case hinges on whether Mr. Libby knowingly lied about his conversation regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame, testimony could offer a behind-the-scenes look at how the Bush administration handled intelligence and criticism in its march to war.

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