Saturday, October 29, 2005


Cheney Aide Charged With Lying in Leak Case

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was indicted by a federal jury on Friday on five felony charges of lying to investigators and misleading the grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case, deepening the air of political crisis afflicting the White House while leaving many questions unanswered.

The indictment charged Mr. Libby with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements to F.B.I. investigators and two counts of lying to the grand jury. It presented Mr. Libby as a deceptive witness who lied repeatedly and provided fictitious accounts to the grand jury about his dealings with reporters. But it did not charge him with the actual leaking of a C.I.A. officer's name.

Mr. Libby, one of the highest-ranking and most influential officials in the administration, immediately resigned and left the White House.

He said in a written statement later that he expected to be exonerated. If convicted of all the charges, he faces up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $1.25 million.

At a news conference at the Justice Department, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, said his investigation "is not over," but he declined to say whether he might seek additional indictments.

The developments left unresolved the fate of Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, who had been warned by the prosecutor that he was in serious legal jeopardy but who was not charged in the indictment against Mr. Libby. With the term of his grand jury at an end, Mr. Fitzgerald said he could present any new evidence to an already impaneled grand jury if needed.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, said in a statement he was confident Mr. Fitzgerald would conclude Mr. Rove had done nothing wrong.

The charges against Mr. Libby and the prosecutor's decision not to indict Mr. Rove riveted Washington, left the White House scrambling to insulate Mr. Bush from further political damage and emboldened Democrats to press their case that the administration had been dishonest with the American people.

But rather than marking the end of the matter after 22 months of an intensive investigation that went to the heart of the White House, the indictment opened a new chapter. Mr. Libby could face a trial that seems likely to expose to the public some of the administration's innermost workings and probably require testimony by Mr. Cheney. And it only highlighted how many elements of the case remained obscured by the secrecy of the legal proceedings.

The 22-page indictment portrayed Mr. Cheney and many of his aides as personally involved in an effort to learn about Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who emerged in the spring and early summer of 2003 as a critic of the way the administration used prewar intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program to justify the invasion of Iraq.

But the indictment did not charge Mr. Libby with the action that set off the prosecution nearly two years ago: the leak of the name of Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. officer whose identity was publicly disclosed by Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. Mr. Novak cited two senior administration officials as his sources.

Nor did the indictment name Mr. Novak's sources, beyond a reference to an "Official A" at the White House who had spoken to him in the week before Mr. Novak's column on July 14, 2003. That official is believed to be Mr. Rove. According to lawyers in the case, Mr. Rove told the grand jury of a conversation with Mr. Novak in which Mr. Novak mentioned that he had heard that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. Mr. Rove told the grand jury that he had responded to Mr. Novak by saying he had heard the same thing, the lawyers said.

Mr. Fitzgerald was spotted Friday morning outside the office of James Sharp, Mr. Bush's personal lawyer. Mr. Bush was interviewed about the case by Mr. Fitzgerald last year. It is not known what discussions, if any, were taking place between the prosecutor and Mr. Sharp. Mr. Sharp did not return a phone call, and Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

At his news conference, Mr. Fitzgerald did not explain his reasons for taking no action against Mr. Rove, even though the prosecutor had advised him that he might be indicted and had continued interviewing witnesses and reviewing evidence as recently as midweek.

Lawyers in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald had misgivings about whether he could prove that Mr. Rove had deliberately sought to mislead investigators about his conversation with a reporter. Allies of Mr. Bush said the expectation within the White House was that Mr. Rove would not be charged although he had received no official word of being cleared.

Hours after the indictment was filed and made public at the Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Bush appeared on the South Lawn of the White House to praise Mr. Libby for working "tirelessly on behalf of the American people" and to say that while he and his administration were "saddened" by the news, they would "remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country."

Mr. Cheney, who was in Georgia, issued a statement calling Mr. Libby "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known."

According to the indictment, Mr. Cheney's office was portrayed as the hub of a concerted effort to gather information about Mr. Wilson. The indictment said that Mr. Cheney told Mr. Libby several weeks before the Novak column ran that Mr. Wilson's wife worked in the CIA's counterproliferation division, part of the intelligence agency's clandestine wing. That assertion by the prosecutor suggested that Mr. Cheney would be a likely witness in the trial and raised questions about the vice president's degree of involvement in dealing with Mr. Wilson and his criticisms.

Mr. Cheney's office declined to comment on whether the vice president would agree to testify, referring questions on the issue to Mr. Cheney's personal lawyer, Terrence O'Donnell. Mr. O'Donnell did not return a telephone call.

Mr. Libby's case has been assigned to Judge Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court in Washington. No date has been set for the arraignment or the start of a trial.

Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, said in statement that Mr. Libby was innocent and that his case would be "vigorously" defended. The lawyer said Mr. Libby had cooperated with the prosecutor and had testified "to the best of his honest recollection on all occasions."

Mr. Tate said Mr. Libby had produced many documents and had signed waivers to allow reporters to testify about their confidential conversations with him.

"We are quite distressed that the special counsel has now sought to pursue alleged inconsistencies in Mr. Libby's recollections and those of others and to charge such inconsistencies as false statements," Mr. Tate said.

The indictment etched a starkly different portrait of an official who repeatedly deceived authorities about his actions. It accused Mr. Libby of one overall count of obstruction of justice for misleading the grand jury about the circumstances under which he learned about Ms. Wilson's work at the C.I.A. and about his conversations with journalists.

The indictment charged Mr. Libby with two counts of making false statements on each of the two occasions in which he was interviewed by F.B.I. agents in October and November 2003. In addition, the indictment charged him with two counts of perjury for lying in two appearances before the grand jury in March 2004.

"We brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system," Mr. Fitzgerald said, adding later, "We didn't get the straight story, and we had to - had to - act."

Moreover, as Mr. Libby was telling the grand jury that he heard about Ms. Wilson from reporters, the indictment said, prosecutors were compiling evidence that it was Mr. Libby who passed on information to two reporters, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times. Mr. Cooper and Ms. Miller declined to comment.

In contrast to Mr. Libby's testimony to the grand jury that he learned of Ms. Wilson from journalists, the indictment presented evidence that showed Mr. Libby engaged in an effort - which began earlier and was more aggressive and broader than was previously known - to collect information about Mr. Wilson from the State Department and the C.I.A.

It was this effort, not his conversations with reporters, that allegedly led Mr. Libby to learn that Mr. Wilson was married to a C.I.A. employee and to the information that she may have had a role in sending her husband to Africa. The indictment alleged that:

¶On May 29, 2003, Mr. Libby asked an undersecretary of state, believed to be Marc Grossman, the under secretary for political affairs, for information about Mr. Wilson's 2002 trip to Niger - although at that time Mr. Libby did not know Mr. Wilson's name. In response, Mr. Grossman provided Mr. Libby with oral reports that identified Mr. Wilson and directed the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department to prepare a written report.

¶On June 9, 2003, a number of classified documents were faxed from the C.I.A. to the vice president's office, addressed to the attention of Mr. Libby and another unidentified official. The documents discussed Mr. Wilson and his trip, but did not mention him by name.

¶June 11, Mr. Libby was told by Mr. Grossman that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A. and that State Department officials were saying that she was involved in sending him on the trip.

¶On June 11, 2003, Mr. Libby was told by an unidentified senior C.I.A. officer that Ms. Wilson was employed at the C.I.A. and was behind Mr. Wilson's trip to Africa.

¶On June 12, 2003, Mr. Libby was told by Mr. Cheney that Ms. Wilson worked in the C.I.A. counterproliferation division, most of whose employees work under covert or classified status. Mr. Cheney's information was understood to have come from the C.I.A. Lawyers involved in the case have said that Mr. Libby's notes of the meeting indicated that Mr. Cheney's information came from George J. Tenet, then the direction of central intelligence. Mr. Tenet has declined to comment.

On June 23, 2003, the indictment said, Mr. Libby met with Ms. Miller and told her that Mr. Wilson's wife might work at a bureau of the C.I.A.

Mr. Wilson went public with his criticism of the administration on July 6, 2003, when he published an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in which he said that he went to Africa at the request of the C.I.A. after the vice president's office raised questions about an intelligence report about a possible effort by Iraq to buy uranium ore from Niger. Mr. Wilson concluded such a deal was "highly doubtful."

In the days that followed, Mr. Libby took several crucial steps, according to the indictment. On July 7, 2003, he had lunch with Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, telling him that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. and that the information was not widely known. Mr. Fleischer's lawyer, Robert Barnett, said he would not comment because he could be called as a witness in the case.

Later, Mr. Libby began a series of meetings with reporters. He met with Ms. Miller of The Times again on July 8, 2003, and told her "of his belief that Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A.," the indictment said. On July 10, 2003, he spoke with Tim Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief, to complain about a news report he had seen, but the Wilsons, according to the indictment, did not come up.

But Mr. Libby told F.B.I. agents and the grand jury a much different account that the indictment said was false.

In one grand jury appearance, according to the indictment, Mr. Libby said, "Mr. Russert said to me, 'Did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife, works at the C.I.A.?' And I said, 'No, I don't know that.' And then he said, 'Yeah all the reporters know it.' And I said again, 'I don't know that.' "

Eric Lichtblau, John Files, Holli Chmela and Douglas Jehl contributed reporting for this article.


Post a Comment

<< Home