Cheney Told Libby that Wilson’s Wife Worked for CIA
Illegally leaked notes by lawyers involved in the CIA leak case reveal that Vice President Cheney told Scooter Libby that Joe Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA.
I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday. Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby’s testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.
The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration’s handling of intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear program to justify the war. Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.
Mr. Libby’s notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson’s undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent’s identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent’s undercover status.
It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government’s deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.
The irony of the lawyers investigating the leaking of secret information to the press leaking secret evidence to the press is rich, indeed. It amazes me that there never seem to be prosecutions for this action, which are clearly intended to poison the water for those under investigation and which taint the jury pool and harm people’s reputations regardless of the disposition of the case.
Otherwise, this is pretty thin stuff. Cheney asked the CIA director who this Wilson character, employed by the CIA for the Niger trip, was. Tenet apparently told him and intimated that Wilson’s wife, a trusted CIA employee, suggested him. Later, Libby told reporters that Wilson’s wife, a trusted CIA employee, suggested him.
Neither Cheneny nor Libby–not even, presumably Tenet–apparently had any idea that Valerie Plame Wilson’s status as a CIA agent was supposed to be a secret. If so, none of them committed the crime which was the purpose of the Fitzgerald investigation. At very worst, Libby apparently tried to hide a perfectly legal conversation with his boss from the investigators. Most likely, he was worried they might leak it to the New York Times who would make a big deal out of it.