CIA Leak Probe Relatively Inexpensive

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who investigated whether senior Bush administration officials illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative for political payback, has spent $1.4 million in his probe over the past three years, his office reported yesterday -- a figure that establishes him as remarkably frugal in the ranks of recent special investigators.

Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr's investigations of President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky and his ties to the failed Whitewater land investment cost $71.5 million and took eight years. Independent Counsel David M. Barrett's examination of Clinton housing secretary Henry G. Cisneros over an extramarital affair and potential illegal payments cost $21 million and lasted 10 years.

Nevertheless, some are already arguing about whether the parsimonious prosecutor's expenditures in the Valerie Plame case were worth the results.

Fitzgerald's probe roiled the White House, laid bare an Oval Office intent on squelching a critic of the Iraq war and forced reporters to do the unthinkable -- name their confidential sources. Though Fitzgerald debated for months whether to charge Bush Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove with a crime, the investigation eventually led to no charges of a criminal leak.

Instead, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff was charged with obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to investigators. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who resigned his post the day he was indicted in October 2005, is scheduled to stand trial in January.

The true cost to taxpayers of Fitzgerald's operation is actually $333,000, according to his spokesman Randall Samborn, because Fitzgerald has relied on a handful of federal prosecutors in Chicago, where he is the U.S. attorney, and in the Justice Department in Washington, and made use of government offices in both locations.

The government would pay rent and utilities for that office space anyway, and those prosecutors would be getting a government paycheck even if they weren't now spending their work hours marshaling evidence against Libby and duking it out with his defense lawyers in pretrial skirmishes. The probe's salary and building costs total $1.1 million.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

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