Libby Denies Seeing Cheney's Notes on Newspaper Column

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 21, 2006

Reprinted From Yesterday's Late Edition

Lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the indicted former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, said in a court filing late Friday that Libby did not see the notes Cheney inscribed on a key newspaper column criticizing the administration's rationale for invading Iraq until he was shown the annotations in the course of an FBI investigation.

The lawyers raised the issue to cast doubt on a claim by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in a court filing a week ago that the annotations "serve both to explain the context of and provide a motive for" Libby's statements and actions that brought about his indictment.

The annotations by Cheney on the opinion column, written by former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, raised the possibility that a report by Wilson questioning Iraqi efforts to buy material in Niger for a nuclear weapon was instigated by Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, whose position at the CIA was classified.

After the Wilson column appeared, several journalists published Plame's name and wrote that it was leaked by administration officials, which led to Fitzgerald's investigation and the charges against Libby of lying to investigators about conversations with journalists.

Fitzgerald has alleged that Cheney's annotations explain why Libby and his colleagues in the vice president's office were "focused" on rebutting Wilson's claims, and that they establish "some of the facts" Cheney viewed as important, including the possibility that Wilson's trip was a junket arranged by Plame.

But Libby's lawyers, in a filing that amplifies Libby's previous requests for access to government documents, quoted from previously sealed grand jury testimony in which Libby said he had not seen the annotations until the FBI gave him a copy. They also state that Fitzgerald may have difficulty authenticating the annotations in court because he has already said he does not intend to call Cheney as a witness at Libby's trial.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company