Secret Papers Could Halt CIA Case

Associated Press
Saturday, October 7, 2006

Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff intends to load up his criminal trial with information about nine national security matters, the names of foreign leaders and details about various terrorist groups, according to court filings in the Valerie Plame leak case.

The papers filed this week hint at what has been taking place behind closed doors as Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald tries to limit the amount of classified data that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is permitted to use at his trial, scheduled for January.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton is asking whether classified evidence would overlap with what Libby is likely to say in his testimony. Libby's attorneys have said he will take the witness stand to deny lying to the FBI in its investigation of the disclosure of Plame's identity to the media.

Even if prosecutors agreed ahead of time about the importance of the "nine national security matters" he wants to disclose, Libby would be entitled to introduce additional evidence, the lawyers wrote.

In court documents, prosecutors argued that it would be "unnecessarily wasteful of time" to allow Libby to present "names of foreign leaders or government officials of other countries, or the names and histories of various terrorist groups."

The danger for prosecutors is that the sheer volume and sensitivity of the classified information Libby wants to introduce could scuttle the trial. Once the judge identifies classified information Libby is entitled to present, U.S. intelligence agencies must rule on whether the secrets can be declassified. The trial would collapse if the intelligence agencies refuse to declassify the information.

Libby is charged with five felony counts of perjury, obstruction and making false statements to the FBI. He is accused of lying about how he learned of Plame's CIA employment and what he told reporters about her when her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was accusing the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to help sell the public on waging war against Iraq.

Libby plans to use what his attorneys call "a memory defense" and must be allowed to demonstrate how busy he was, the lawyers say.

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