Saturday, January 21, 2006

Libby lawyers to subpoena reporters in CIA leak

Libby lawyers to subpoena reporters in CIA leak

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney plan to issue subpoenas to journalists and news organizations for documents to be used at his trial involving the leak of a CIA operative's name, according to a court document filed on Friday.

The expected move by attorneys for Lewis "Scooter" Libby was disclosed in a joint status report that defense lawyers and prosecutors filed with the federal judge overseeing the case.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of obstructing justice, perjury and lying in the two-year investigation into the leak to the news media of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Plame's identity was leaked to reporters in July 2003 after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify the war in Iraq.

A number of journalists already have testified as part of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak and could be called as prosecution witnesses. New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail last year before she agreed to testify.

In the six-page court filing, defense attorneys said the subpoenas to journalists and news organizations would be to obtain additional necessary documents for trial. They did not identify who would be subpoenaed or say what they would be seeking.

They also said there could be litigation before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who is presiding over the case, and perhaps the U.S. Court of Appeals if the reporters or news organization fight the subpoenas, as expected.

Such a legal battle could delay any trial. The judge has yet to set a trial date.

Libby's lawyers also said that it may be necessary for the defense to issue subpoenas to government agencies but they did not indicate which agencies.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for February 3.