Friday, February 10, 2006

Cheney authorized aide to leak in CIA case

Cheney authorized aide to leak in CIA case: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney directed his aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby to use classified material to discredit a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq war effort, the National Journal reported on Thursday.

Court papers released last week show that Libby was authorized to disclose classified information to news reporters by "his superiors," in an effort to counteract diplomat Joe Wilson's charge that the Bush administration twisted intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons to justify the 2003 invasion.

The National Journal, a U.S. weekly magazine, citing attorneys familiar with the matter, reported that Cheney was among those superiors referred to in a letter from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to Libby's lawyers.

A lawyer for Cheney had no immediate comment.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, faces perjury and other charges in the leak of the identity of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame, a move that effectively ended her career at the CIA.

Libby has pleaded not guilty to five counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice.

Cheney's name has surfaced in other court documents as well. According to an appeals-court decision made public last Friday, "the vice-president informed Libby 'in an off sort of curiosity sort of fashion'" that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA one month before her identity was made public.

Both documents cite testimony Libby made to a grand jury.

Lawyers for Libby could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Cheney's efforts to discredit Wilson could have risked national security.

"The Vice President's vindictiveness in defending the misguided war in Iraq is obvious. If he used classified information to defend it, he should be prepared to take full responsibility," Kennedy said in a statement.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan declined to comment.

"Our policy is we're not going to discuss this while there's an ongoing legal proceeding," McClellan told reporters.