View Full Version : Libby Was "Scapegoat" In CIA Agent Leak, Lawyer Says

01-24-2007, 09:46 AM
Libby Was `Scapegoat' in CIA Agent Leak, Lawyer Says


By Kristin Jensen and Cary O'Reilly

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- I. Lewis Libby, former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, thought he was being set up to take the blame over the leak of a CIA operative's name to protect White House official Karl Rove, Libby's lawyer told jurors in his perjury trial.

Libby, 56, is accused of lying to investigators probing whether Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame's identity was deliberately leaked to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Iraq war. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told jurors that Libby "made up" a story about learning of Plame's identity from NBC journalist Tim Russert even though he heard it from Cheney a month earlier.

Libby was "the innocent person to be sacrificed" to protect Rove, defense attorney Ted Wells said during opening statements today in Washington. "He was concerned about being the scapegoat."

Rove is one of President George W. Bush's closest advisers. Fitzgerald investigated Rove, 56, and decided not to press charges against him.

"Unlike Karl Rove, you will learn, Mr. Libby had not been out pushing stories about Ms. Wilson," Wells said. "Mr. Libby was just a staff member. Karl Rove was the lifeblood of the Republican Party."

After Libby began to worry that he would become a scapegoat, he went to Cheney with his concerns, Wells said. Cheney wrote a note saying one staffer shouldn't be sacrificed to protect another, meaning Rove, Wells said.

`Innocent Mistakes'
"We are not commenting on an ongoing criminal matter," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said when asked about Wells's statements.

Libby is charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements, and faces as many as 10 years in prison if convicted of obstruction, the most serious charge. Libby resigned after he was indicted in October 2005.

Wells said any misstatements Libby made to investigators were "innocent mistakes" resulting from the faulty memory of a man focused on national security concerns.

At the heart of the case is a 16-word sentence in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address in which he said the British government learned that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium in Africa for a nuclear weapon. Wilson was sent by the CIA in 2002 to investigate the claim and didn't believe it was true.

New York Times Column
After telling journalists anonymously that the claims about the uranium were questionable, Wilson wrote in a July 6, 2003, New York Times column that Bush "twisted" intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. Syndicated columnist Bob Novak revealed that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative in an article eight days later.

The indictment charges that Libby falsely told a grand jury that he first learned about Plame's identity from Russert on July 10, 2003. Fitzgerald played for the jurors an audio excerpt from Libby's grand jury testimony in which he described the conversation and said he didn't want to confirm any information for Russert.

Following the opening statements, the first witness, Marc Grossman, a former undersecretary of state, testified that he told Libby on June 11 or June 12 that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Grossman said Libby had asked him whether he knew anything about an ambassador visiting Africa. Grossman confirmed the trip and that the ambassador was Wilson. Grossman then requested more information and found out that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative who coordinated her husband's trip.

`Thought It Was Odd'
"I thought it was odd" that a CIA operative would organize such a trip for her spouse, Grossman said, adding that he reported his findings to his boss at the State Department, then- deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, and to Libby.

When he spoke to Libby, "I recall that I said there was one other thing I thought he needed to know, which is that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the agency," meaning the CIA, said Grossman, who now works for a consulting firm in Washington.

Grossman also testified he met with Armitage in October 2003 before being interviewed by FBI investigators probing the leak. Grossman said Armitage told him that he leaked the name to Novak.

"He said it was the dumbest thing he had ever done," Grossman said of Armitage. "He said he had offered to quit" and had told the FBI investigators of his actions. Grossman said he was "shocked and disappointed" by what Armitage told him.

No one has been charged with leaking Plame's identity. It is a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert CIA agent.

Fitzgerald said Russert will testify that he didn't know about Plame when he spoke with Libby on July 10 and didn't ask Libby about her.

"The defendant lied; he made up a story," Fitzgerald said. "You can't learn something startling on Thursday that you're giving out on Monday and Tuesday."

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton expects the trial before a jury of nine women and three men to last four to six weeks.

The case is U.S. vs. Libby, 05-394, U.S. District Court, the District of Columbia.

01-24-2007, 05:15 PM
Libby was one of the guys who helped fix the intel for the war.