Wednesday, October 26, 2005

CIA leak grand jury may hear charges Wednesday


CIA leak grand jury may hear charges Wednesday

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity was scheduled to meet on Wednesday amid signs the prosecutor in the case was preparing to seek criminal charges.

The grand jury session follows a last-minute flurry of interviews by investigators with CIA operative Valerie Plame's neighbors and a former colleague of top White House adviser Karl Rove.

Plame's identity was leaked after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of twisting prewar intelligence on Iraq.

White House officials were anxiously awaiting the outcome of the leak case since any indicted officials were expected to resign immediately. If indictments are brought, Bush was likely to make a public statement to try to reassure Americans that he is committed to honesty and integrity in government.

Lawyers involved in the case said Fitzgerald appeared close to bringing indictments, with an announcement expected as early as Wednesday, after the grand jury meets.

The grand jury is slated to expire on Friday unless Fitzgerald extends it.

The White House has refused to answer questions about Vice President Dick Cheney's role in the case.

According to a New York Times report, Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, learned about Plame in a conversation with Cheney on June 12, 2003, weeks before her identity became public in a newspaper column by Robert Novak on July 14, 2003.

Libby's notes indicate Cheney got his information about Plame from then-CIA Director George Tenet, according to the Times. The White House would neither confirm nor deny the account.

Fitzgerald's investigation has centered on Libby and Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser. Other aides may also be charged, lawyers said.

Lawyers involved in the case said it could be difficult for Fitzgerald to charge administration officials with knowingly revealing Plame's identity.

They said Fitzgerald appeared more likely to seek charges for easier-to-prove crimes such as making false statements, obstruction of justice and disclosing classified information.

But there were 11th-hour signs that Fitzgerald could still bring charges for the leak itself.

FBI agents on Monday night questioned some of Plame's neighbors about whether they knew about her CIA work before her identity was leaked to the press. The interviews could help Fitzgerald show that Plame's status had been a closely-guarded secret.