'I Didn't Do It'

Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, January 31, 2007; 1:02 PM

It's a memorable scene.

The time: September 2003, just as the Department of Justice is launching its investigation of who leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent to the media.

The characters: Scooter Libby, the singularly important chief of staff to an enormously powerful vice president, and David S. Addington, the vice president's preeminent legal brain and architect of the White House's expansion of executive power.

The place: Libby's spacious office in the gothic Old Executive Office Building, right next door to the White House.

"I just want to tell you, I didn't do it," Libby tells Addington, according to the latter's testimony yesterday at the former's federal trial for perjury and obstruction of justice.

And how does Addington respond? No one has ever suggested he is stupid. He did not respond at all.

"I didn't ask what the 'it' was," Addington testified yesterday.

That was a wise move on Addington's part.

In the fall of 2003, the White House was publicly issuing carefully parsed denials related to the Plame case -- all of which later turned out to have one central aspect in common: They were utterly and completely deceptive.

The truth, of course, was that several White House officials had spoken to a number of reporters about Plame. It's just that no one wanted to say so.

For the press, getting a straight answer out of a senior official was a hopeless cause. But for a colleague, someone like Addington, it was entirely undesirable. It could make you a part of the cover-up.

Dispatches From the Libby Trial

Carol D. Leonnig and Amy Goldstein write in The Washington Post: "Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller yesterday helped the prosecutor who landed her in jail and forced her into the witness chair, providing potentially damaging information about the confidential administration source she tried to shield, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby.

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