Correction to This Article
An Oct. 26 article about the CIA leak investigation incorrectly reported that members of a grand jury must vote unanimously to indict someone. For the federal grand jury considering the matter, at least 12 jurors must agree to issue an indictment.

Bush Aides Brace for Charges

White House adviser Karl Rove recently testified again before the grand jury.
White House adviser Karl Rove recently testified again before the grand jury. (By Mark Wilson -- Getty Images)
By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The prosecutor in the CIA leak case was preparing to outline possible charges before the federal grand jury as early as today, even as the FBI conducted last-minute interviews in the high-profile investigation, according to people familiar with the case.

With Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Washington yesterday, lawyers in the case and some White House officials braced for at least one indictment when the grand jury meets today. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, is said by several people in the case to be a main focus, but not the only one.

In a possible sign that Fitzgerald may seek to charge one or more officials with illegally disclosing Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation, FBI agents as recently as Monday night interviewed at least two people in her D.C. neighborhood. The agents were attempting to determine whether the neighbors knew that Plame worked for the CIA before she was unmasked with the help of senior Bush administration officials. Two neighbors said they told the FBI they had been surprised to learn she was a CIA operative.

The FBI interviews suggested the prosecutor wanted to show that Plame's status was covert, and that there was damage from the revelation that she worked at the CIA.

Underscoring the uncertainty surrounding the probe, two Republican officials said Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, the president's top strategist, is not sure whether he will face indictment as the case winds down. Rove was said to be awaiting word from Fitzgerald, even as prosecutors questioned at least one former Rove associate about Rove's contacts with reporters before Plame's name was disclosed. The White House expects indictments to come today, according to a senior administration official.

The news of the eleventh-hour moves came on the same day that Cheney himself was implicated in the chain of events that led to Plame's being exposed. In a report in the New York Times that the White House pointedly did not dispute, Fitzgerald was said to have notes taken by Libby showing that he learned about Plame from the vice president a month before she was identified by columnist Robert D. Novak.

There is no indication Cheney did anything illegal or improper, but the report was the first to indicate that he was aware of Plame well before she became a household name.

Fitzgerald's investigation has centered on whether senior administration officials knowingly revealed Plame's identity in an effort to discredit a critic of the Bush administration -- her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. On July 6, 2003, Wilson accused the administration in The Washington Post and the Times of using flawed intelligence to justify the war with Iraq. Eight days later, Novak revealed Plame's name and her identity as a CIA operative.

The grand jury, whose term expires Friday, is scheduled for a session today. Before a vote on an indictment, prosecutors typically leave the room so jurors can deliberate in private, and ask that the jury alert them when it has reached a decision.

Unlike the jury in a criminal trial, grand jurors are not weighing proof of guilt or innocence. They must decide whether there is probable cause to charge someone with a crime, and they must agree unanimously to indict. The prosecutor could seek to seal any indictments until he announces the charges.

Officials described a White House on edge. "Everybody just wants this week over," said one official.

The key figures in the probe, including Rove and Libby, yesterday attended staff meetings and planned President Bush's next political and policy moves. Others sat nervously at their desks, fielding calls from reporters and insisting they were in the dark about what the next 24 hours would bring.

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