By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Attorneys for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff urged a court yesterday to force a prosecutor to turn over CIA records indicating whether former CIA operative Valerie Plame's employment was classified, saying the answer is not yet clear.
The defense team for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby also asked that the court require Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald to turn over any informal assessments conducted by the CIA to determine whether the leak of Plame's identity in July 2003 damaged national security or agency operations.
Libby was indicted in October on five counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice in the course of Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of Plame's identity to the media. The indictment charges that Libby lied to investigators when he said he did not provide information about Plame to two reporters and when he said he learned about Plame from a third, NBC's Tim Russert.
Defense lawyers argued in court papers that it is crucial to determine whether Plame was not an undercover operative at the time Libby was discussing her with members of the media, and whether little or no damage was done to national security when her identity was publicly disclosed.
If either is true, the defense argued, it will "challenge the prosecution's contention that Mr. Libby has reason to lie to the FBI and the grand jury about his conversations with reporters in July 2003."
Plame's identity was first disclosed in Robert D. Novak's syndicated column on July 14, 2003. It appeared eight days after her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly asserted that the administration had twisted intelligence to justify war with Iraq.
The defense said it also is seeking records of daily briefings from the Office of the Vice President to show that Libby was immersed in national security matters from dawn to dusk every day.
"These documents are material to establishing that any misstatements he may have made were the result of confusion, mistake and faulty memory . . . rather than deliberate lies," according to the papers.
The demand for records is one of several pretrial discovery disputes that will likely be discussed when Fitzgerald and the defense lawyers appear before U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Friday.
A spokesman for Fitzgerald's office has declined to comment on defense motions. Defense lawyers also declined to comment on their filings.