- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told a federal grand jury that his superiors authorized him to give secret information to reporters as part of the Bush administration’s defense of intelligence used to justify invading Iraq, according to court papers.

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in documents filed last month that he plans to introduce evidence that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, disclosed to reporters the contents of a classified National Intelligence Estimate in summer 2003.

The NIE is a report prepared by the head of the nation’s intelligence operations for high-level government officials, up to and including the president. Portions of NIEs are sometimes declassified and made public. It is not clear whether that happened in this instance.

In a Jan. 23 letter to Mr. Libby’s attorneys, Mr. Fitzgerald said Mr. Libby also testified before the grand jury that he caused at least one other government official to discuss an intelligence estimate with reporters in July 2003.

“We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors,” Mr. Fitzgerald wrote.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to comment.

“Our policy is that we are not going to discuss this when it’s an ongoing legal proceeding,” he said.

William Jeffress, Mr. Libby’s attorney, said, “There is no truth at all” to suggestions that Mr. Libby would try to shift blame to his superiors as a defense against the charges.

Mr. Libby, 55, was indicted late last year on charges that he lied to FBI agents and the grand jury about how he learned CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity and when he subsequently told reporters.

He is not charged with leaking classified information from an intelligence estimate report.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said Mr. Cheney should take responsibility if he authorized Mr. Libby to share classified information with reporters.

“These charges, if true, represent a new low in the already sordid case of partisan interests being placed above national security,” Mr. Kennedy said. “The vice president’s vindictiveness in defending the misguided war in Iraq is obvious. If he used classified information to defend it, he should be prepared to take full responsibility.”

Mr. Fitzgerald, in his letter to Mr. Libby’s attorneys, said he plans to use their client’s grand jury testimony to support evidence pertaining to the White House aide’s meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who has since left the paper.


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