April 02, 2004

Prosecutors Are Said to Have Expanded Inquiry Into Leak of C.I.A. Officer's Name

"Out, out damn spot!"

DAVID JOHNSTON and RICHARD W. STEVENSON, New York
Times: Prosecutors investigating whether someone in
the Bush administration improperly disclosed the
identity of a C.I.A. officer have expanded their
inquiry to examine whether White House officials lied
to investigators or mishandled classified information
related to the case, lawyers involved in the case and
government officials say.

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)


http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/02/politics/02LEAK.html?ei=5062&en=bab38c25e026cacf&ex=1081486800&adxnnl=1&partner=GOOGLE&adxnnlx=1080882313-1MRKlmtdUmocjJyj1yuMiQ&pagewanted=print&position=


April 2, 2004
Prosecutors Are Said to Have Expanded Inquiry Into Leak of C.I.A. Officer's Name
By DAVID JOHNSTON and RICHARD W. STEVENSON

ASHINGTON, April 1 Prosecutors investigating whether
someone in the Bush administration improperly
disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. officer have
expanded their inquiry to examine whether White House
officials lied to investigators or mishandled
classified information related to the case, lawyers
involved in the case and government officials say.

In looking at violations beyond the original focus of
the inquiry, which centered on a rarely used statute
that makes it a felony to disclose the identity of an
undercover intelligence officer intentionally,
prosecutors have widened the range of conduct under
scrutiny and for the first time raised the possibility
of bringing charges peripheral to the leak itself.

The expansion of the inquiry's scope comes at a time
when prosecutors, after a hiatus of about a month,
appear to be preparing to seek additional testimony
before a federal grand jury, lawyers with clients in
the case said. It is not clear whether the renewed
grand jury activity represents a concluding session or
a prelude to an indictment.

The broadened scope is a potentially significant
development that represents exactly what allies of the
Bush White House feared when Attorney General John
Ashcroft removed himself from the case last December
and turned it over to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the
United States attorney in Chicago.

Republican lawyers worried that the leak case, in the
hands of an aggressive prosecutor, might grow into an
unwieldy, time-consuming and politically charged
inquiry, like the sprawling independent counsel
inquiries of the 1990's, which distracted and damaged
the Clinton administration.

Mr. Fitzgerald is said by lawyers involved in the case
and government officials to be examining possible
discrepancies between documents he has gathered and
statements made by current or former White House
officials during a three-month preliminary
investigation last fall by the F.B.I. and the Justice
Department. Some officials spoke to F.B.I. agents with
their lawyers present; others met informally with
agents in their offices and even at bars near the
White House.

The White House took the unusual step last year of
specifically denying any involvement in the leak on
the part of several top administration officials,
including Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser,
and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief
of staff. The White House press secretary, Scott
McClellan, has repeatedly said no one wants to get to
the bottom of the case more than Mr. Bush.

But Mr. Bush himself has said he does not know if
investigators will ever be able to determine who
disclosed the identity of the C.I.A. officer, Valerie
Plame, to Robert Novak, who wrote in his syndicated
column last July that Ms. Plame, the wife of former
Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was a C.I.A. employee.

Mr. Wilson was a critic of the administration's Iraq
policies. Democrats have accused the White House of
leaking his wife's name in retaliation because Mr.
Wilson, in a July 6, 2003, Op-Ed commentary in The New
York Times, disputed Mr. Bush's statement in his State
of the Union address that January that Iraq was trying
to develop a nuclear bomb and had sought to buy
uranium in Africa.

The suspicion that someone may have lied to
investigators is based on contradictions between
statements by various witnesses in F.B.I. interviews,
the lawyers and officials said. The conflicts are said
to be buttressed by documents, including memos, e-mail
messages and phone records turned over by the White
House.

At the same time, Mr. Fitzgerald is said to be
investigating whether the disclosure of Ms. Plame's
identity came after someone discovered her name among
classified documents circulating at the upper echelons
of the White House. It could be a crime to disclose
information from such a document, although such
violations are rarely prosecuted.

Mr. Bush's advisers have repeatedly urged White House
employees to cooperate with the inquiry, and it is
unclear whether Mr. Fitzgerald has made any decisions
about whether to go forward or drop the case. On
Thursday, Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr.
Fitzgerald in Chicago, declined to discuss the case.

Mr. McClellan said the White House was fully
cooperating with the investigation, but he declined to
comment on the latest developments.

Mr. Fitzgerald, who has been in charge of the case for
three months, has said he is nearing completion of the
inquiry, the lawyers said. Some of them have suggested
that he may be facing a problem if he declines to
prosecute.

Prosecutors almost never make public the details of
cases in which they investigate, but bring no charges.
Federal law bars prosecutors from disclosing
information obtained through a grand jury, the legal
vehicle Mr. Fitzgerald has used to conduct his
inquiry.

But in this case, being investigated in the heat of a
closely fought presidential election, Democrats have
been watching carefully for any sign that the
prosecutor has favored the administration. Should Mr.
Fitzgerald bring the case to a close with no
indictments and no public explanation of his decision
not to prosecute, he would almost certainly be subject
to intense criticism from Democrats.

Several lawyers said Mr. Fitzgerald could ask a judge
to allow him to issue a report. Or, they said, he
could seek to employ a rarely used provision of the
Justice Department's guidelines for prosecutors
allowing grand juries to issue reports. But those
sections of the prosecutor's manual appear to relate
to public officials in organized crime cases.

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Posted by richard at April 2, 2004 01:57 PM