- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff apparently gave New York Times reporter Judith Miller inaccurate information about where Valerie Plame worked in the CIA, a mistake that could be important to the criminal investigation.

Mrs. Miller’s notes say I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby told her on July 8, 2003, that the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC).

Mrs. Plame, Mr. Wilson’s wife, never worked for WINPAC, which is on the overt side of the CIA. She worked on the CIA’s secret side, the directorate of operations, according to three persons familiar with her work for the spy agency.

The three all spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s ongoing grand jury investigation into the leak of Mrs. Plame’s identity in 2003.

Whatever Mr. Fitzgerald decides, any public statements he makes will be made in Washington, spokesman Randall Samborn said.

President Bush declined to say Monday whether he would remove any aide under indictment.

Pentagon officials looked into Mrs. Miller’s assertion that she had a security clearance while working as an embedded reporter during the Iraq war, shortly before her conversations with Mr. Libby.

“For a security clearance, you have to go through any number of specific background investigative checks,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

He said reporters who were embedded with military units during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars signed ground rules in which they agreed not to make public sensitive information they learned.

The incorrect information about where Mrs. Plame worked in the CIA could be a significant lead for investigators. Accurate information presumably can come from any number of sources, while inaccurate information might more easily be traceable to a single document or a particular meeting, suggested Lance Cole, a law professor at Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson School of Law.

The inaccurate information could suggest that Mr. Libby thought Mrs. Plame was not an undercover spy and therefore didn’t know her identity was classified. The incorrect piece of information could lead back to a source or sources who were engaging in a larger effort to undercut Mr. Wilson’s credibility. Or, as a former top FBI official Danny Coulson suggested, it could simply mean that Mr. Libby’s information came from “dinner talk” involving people who were uninformed.

In her first-person account, published Sunday, recounting her meetings with Mr. Libby, Mrs. Miller described her July 8, 2003, conversation with Mr. Libby and the point at which it turned to Mrs. Plame.

“My notes contain a phrase inside parentheses: ‘Wife works at Winpac.’ Mr. Fitzgerald asked what that meant,” Mrs. Miller wrote.

“I told the grand jury that I believed that this was the first time I had heard that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked for Winpac,” she wrote. “In fact, I told the grand jury that when Mr. Libby indicated that Ms. Plame worked for Winpac, I assumed that she worked as an analyst, not as an undercover operative.”



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