- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Three prominent journalists testified yesterday that Bush administration officials volunteered leaks about a CIA operative, as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.’s attorneys sought to suggest that he was not responsible for exposing her.

The jury in Mr. Libby’s perjury trial heard a 66-second snippet of one of the deep-background interviews given to Washington Post editor Bob Woodward for use in one of his books. The jurors also heard Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists discuss who did and did not leak the information that set off a scandal and ultimately brought Mr. Libby to trial.

Mr. Woodward, who never wrote about CIA operative Valerie Plame, and columnist Robert Novak, who first identified her in print, testified that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage first told them in summer 2003 that Mrs. Plame, wife of prominent Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, worked at the CIA.

Another Post reporter, Walter Pincus, testified that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer “suddenly swerved off” topic during an interview to tell him of her employment.

This contradicted Mr. Fleischer’s testimony last week.

A major government witness, Mr. Fleischer testified that Mr. Libby told him about Mrs. Plame earlier than Mr. Libby has told investigators. Mr. Libby said he thought he first learned about her from NBC reporter Tim Russert.

On cross-examination, Mr. Fleischer also testified that he did not recall telling Mr. Pincus about Mrs. Plame. The reporter’s testimony was the most direct hit the defense made on the prosecution’s evidence that Mr. Libby lied to FBI agents and a grand jury about his talks with reporters about Mrs. Plame and obstructed an investigation into how her name leaked.

Mr. Libby, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is not charged with the leaking.

The defense showed Mr. Libby had numerous opportunities to leak Mrs. Plame’s identity to reporters and did not. But none of the testimony addressed directly the charges that he lied about his conversations with three reporters about her.

The day’s highlight was a tape of Mr. Woodward’s June 13, 2003, interview with Mr. Armitage about how President Bush decided to go to war. Mr. Armitage’s name was never supposed to be connected publicly to what he said, but the scandal prompted him to release Mr. Woodward from his pledge of confidentiality. Mr. Armitage has said he revealed the name accidentally and off the cuff and didn’t realize that Mrs. Plame’s employment was classified information.

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