The prosecutor investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity put up an official Web site for making public announcements yesterday, fueling the belief of lawyers involved in the case that he will announce charges against some administration officials next week.
Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald told attorneys for administration officials late last week that he was nearing decisions about possible charges. Without fanfare, the office put up a site at www.usdoj.gov/usao/iln/osc.
"It sure doesn't look like he's folding up his tent and going home without some charges," said one lawyer involved in the case who asked not to be identified.
Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.
For 22 months, Fitzgerald has focused much of his investigation on White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and their private discussions with reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame after her husband publicly criticized the administration's use of flawed intelligence to justify going to war with Iraq. Her name was published shortly thereafter, on July 14, 2003, in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak.
White House officials have said they are bracing for the possibility Rove, Libby and perhaps lower-level administration officials could be indicted.
Since late last year, Fitzgerald has said his investigation was all but complete except for obtaining the grand jury testimony of reporters Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine. Cooper testified in July regarding his confidential conversations with Rove about Plame. Miller went to jail for 85 days and then agreed to testify on Sept. 30 about her private conversations with Libby. She testified once more Oct. 12, followed by a fourth grand jury appearance by Rove. Fitzgerald told all three he would not need them to return.
The grand jury considering the matter convened yesterday, with two prosecutors from Fitzgerald's team present. Fitzgerald was not there, nor were any administration witnesses. Lawyers close to the case say the prosecution team has likely begun laying out a summary of its case for the grand jury, which began with 23 members but has lost several members over the past two years. Its term, which expires Friday, could be extended at Fitzgerald's request.