- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. was eager to make public that the CIA, not Vice President Dick Cheney, sent an ex-ambassador to check on Iraq’s efforts to obtain nuclear material, a former agency executive said yesterday.

Former CIA Iraq Mission Manager Robert L. Grenier appeared as a government witness in Mr. Libby’s trial on charges of obstruction and lying. He testified that he told Mr. Libby the idea of sending ex-Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger was the brainchild of Mr. Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, who worked in the CIA office that sent him in 2002.

A year later, Mr. Wilson became a prominent critic of the war, based on what he found in the African nation.

Ultimately, Mr. Grenier’s testimony could help prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald establish a motive for Mr. Libby to confirm her identity and employer to reporters in 2003, which Mr. Libby denies doing.

But defense attorney William Jeffress quickly questioned how Mr. Grenier’s memory managed to improve substantially since he talked to investigators from 2003 to 2005. The defense has attacked government witnesses for inconsistencies in their statements during the investigation of the leak of Mrs. Plame’s name.

Such attacks on memory set the stage for the defense argument that Mr. Libby did not lie to investigators about what he told reporters about Mrs. Plame, but merely had his own memory lapse.

Mr. Grenier said Mr. Libby called him June 11, 2003, to ask about the Wilson mission and sounded upset that Mr. Cheney’s office was being blamed for sending the former ambassador.

Later that day, Mr. Grenier said, he told Mr. Libby “it was not only the office of the vice president driving the Wilson trip but also inquiries from State and Defense.”

“Mr. Libby asked if the CIA was willing to reveal that publicly,” Mr. Grenier testified.

He said he checked, told Mr. Libby the CIA agreed to the release and put the CIA’s spokesman on the phone with a Cheney press officer to work out details.

He testified he also told Mr. Libby that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked in the CIA unit that sent the former ambassador to Africa and “that’s where the idea came from,” because she knew he had contacts in Niger.

On cross-examination, Mr. Grenier said he had not been able to recall for the FBI in December 2003 whether he told Mr. Libby about Mrs. Plame’s job at CIA, and that he still was uncertain when he testified to the grand jury in January 2004 and July 2005. Why was he so sure now that he told Mr. Libby about Mrs. Plame?

Mr. Grenier’s explanation was that “I kept going over it again and again in my mind” and remembered that after speaking with Mr. Libby “I felt guilty I said too much.”

Mr. Grenier said his guilt arose from mentioning Mrs. Plame’s work at CIA.

“We guard identities pretty closely,” he said.

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