http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...101701888.html

Cheney's Office Is a Focus in Leak Case
By Jim VandeHei and Walter Pincus
The Washington Post
Tuesday 18 October 2005

Sources cite role of feud with CIA.

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name hurtles to an
apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in
on the role of Vice President Cheney's office, according to lawyers familiar
with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled
evidence that suggests Cheney's long-standing tensions with the CIA
contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.

In grand jury sessions, including with New York Times reporter Judith
Miller, Fitzgerald has pressed witnesses on what Cheney may have known about the effort to push back against ex-diplomat and Iraq war critic Joseph C.Wilson IV, including the leak of his wife's position at the CIA, Miller and
others said. But Fitzgerald has focused more on the role of Cheney's top
aides, including Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, lawyers involved
in the case said.

One former CIA official told prosecutors early in the probe about
efforts by Cheney's office and his allies at the National Security Council
to obtain information about Wilson's trip as long as two months before Plame
was unmasked in July 2003, according to a person familiar with the account.

It is not clear whether Fitzgerald plans to charge anyone inside the
Bush administration with a crime. But with the case reaching a climax -
administration officials are braced for possible indictments as early as
this week- it is increasingly clear that Cheney and his aides have been
deeply enmeshed in events surrounding the Plame affair from the outset.

It was a request by Cheney for more CIA information that, unknown to
him, started a chain of events that led to Wilson's mission three years ago.
His staff pressed the CIA for information about it one year later. And it
was Libby who talked about Wilson's wife with at least two reporters before
her identity became public, according to evidence Fitzgerald has amassed and
which parties close to the case have acknowledged.

Lawyers in the case said Fitzgerald has focused extensively on whether
behind-the-scenes efforts by the vice president's aides and other senior
Bush aides were part of a criminal campaign to punish Wilson in part by
unmasking his wife.

In a move people involved in the case read as a sign that the end is
near, Fitzgerald's spokesman yesterday told the Associated Press that the
prosecutor planned to announce his conclusions in Washington, where the
grand jury has been meeting, instead of Chicago, where the prosecutor is
based. Some lawyers close to the case cited courthouse talk that Fitzgerald
might announce his findings as early as tomorrow, though hard evidence about
his intentions and timing remained elusive.

In the course of the investigation, Fitzgerald has been exposed to the
intense, behind-the-scenes fight between Cheney's office and the CIA over
prewar intelligence and the vice president's central role in compiling and
then defending the intelligence used to justify the war. Miller, in a
first-person account Sunday in the Times, recalled that Libby complained in
a June 23, 2003, meeting in his office that the CIA was engaged in
"selective leaking" and a "hedging strategy" that would make the agency look
equally prescient whether or not weapons of mass destruction were found in
Iraq.

The special prosecutor has personally interviewed numerous officials
from the CIA, White House and State Department. In the process, he and his
investigative team have talked to a number of Cheney aides, including Mary
Matalin, his former strategist; Catherine Martin, his former communications
adviser; and Jennifer Millerwise, his former spokeswoman. In the case of
Millerwise, she talked with the prosecutor more than two years ago but never
appeared before the grand jury, according to a person familiar with her
situation.

Starting in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the
vice president was at the forefront of a White House campaign to convince
Congress and the American public that invading Iraq was central to defeating
terrorists worldwide. Cheney, a longtime proponent of toppling Saddam
Hussein, led the White House effort to build the case that Iraq was an
imminent threat because it possessed a dangerous arsenal of weapons.

Before the war, he traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings, an
unusual move that some critics interpreted as an effort to pressure
intelligence officials into supporting his view of the evidence. After the
war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on
faulty information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to the
effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress
and elsewhere.

Administration officials acknowledge that Cheney was immersed in Iraq
intelligence, and pressed aides repeatedly for information on weapons
programs. He regularly requested follow-up information from the CIA and
others when a piece of intelligence caught his eye. Wilson's trip, for
example, was triggered by a question Cheney asked during a regular morning
intelligence briefing. He had received a Defense Intelligence Agency report
alleging Iraq had sought uranium from Niger and wanted to know what else the
CIA may have known. Cheney's office was not told ahead of time about the
Wilson mission to investigate the claim.

In the Bush White House, Cheney typically has operated secretly, relying
on advice from a tight circle of longtime advisers, including Libby; David
Addington, his counsel; and his wife, Lynne, and two children, including
Liz, a top State Department official. But a former Cheney aide, who
requested anonymity, said it is "implausible" that Cheney himself was
involved in the leaking of Plame's name because he rarely, if ever, involved
himself in press strategy.

One fact apparently critical to Fitzgerald's inquiry is when Libby
learned about Plame and her CIA employment. Information that has emerged so far leaves this issue murky. A former CIA official told investigators that
Cheney's office was seeking information about Wilson in May 2003, but it's
not certain that officials with the vice president learned of the Plame
connection then.

Miller, in her account, said Libby raised the issue of Plame in the June
23, 2003, meeting, describing her as a CIA employee and asserting that she
had arranged the trip to Niger. Earlier that month, Libby discussed Wilson's
trip with The Washington Post but never mentioned his wife.

Senior administration officials said there was a document circulated at
the State Department - before Libby talked to Miller - that mentioned Plame.
It was drafted in June as an administrative letter and addressed to
then-Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, who was acting secretary at the time since Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard
L. Armitage were out of the country.

As a former State Department official involved in the process recalled
it, Grossman wanted the letter as background for a meeting at the White
House, where the discussion was focused on then growing criticism of Bush's
inclusion in his January State of the Union speech of the allegation that
Hussein had been seeking uranium from Niger.

The letter to Grossman discussed the reasons the Bureau of Intelligence
and Research (INR) did not believe the intelligence, which originated from
foreign sources, was accurate. It had a paragraph near the beginning, marked
"(S)," meaning it was classified secret, describing a meeting at the CIA in
February 2002, attended by another INR analyst, where Plame introduced her
husband as the person who was to go to Niger.

Attached to the letter were the notes from the INR analyst who had
attended the session, but they were written well after the event occurred
and contained mistakes about who was there and what was said, according to a former intelligence official who reviewed the document in the summer of
2003.

Grossman has refused to answer questions about the letter, and it is not
clear whether he talked about it at the White House meeting he was said to
have attended, according to the former State official.

Fitzgerald has questioned several witnesses from the CIA and State
Department before the grand jury about the INR memo, according to lawyers
familiar with the case.