CIA Leak Inquiry Wraps Up, Indictments Uncertain

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After two years, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is wrapping up his investigation into who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Now, he may be preparing indictments in the case — and the fallout could touch some of the biggest names in the Bush administration.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is wrapping up his investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the media. It's still unknown where he's going with the case and who, if anyone, will be indicted. Recent revelations recall Vice President Dick Cheney's displeasure with some actions of the CIA. Cheney's name remains close to the essence of the story, and Fitzgerald has been asking tough question about what the vice president knew and didn't know. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA reporting:

Prior to the Iraq War, the vice president's office was pushing for an interpretation of available intelligence that maximized the threat that Saddam Hussein posed. Jack Pitney, who worked for Cheney in the 1980s, is now a professor at Claremont McKenna College.

Professor JACK PITNEY (Claremont McKenna College): It's very much in character that he would question some of the assessments that were coming out. This is somebody who had a great deal of experience on his own in national security policy, going all the way back to the Ford administration. And consequently, he trusts his own judgment, not necessarily those of lower-level analysts.

GONYEA: In fact, during the run-up to war, the first draft of the presentation that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell would give to the United Nations regarding Iraq's weapons programs came from the vice president's office. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to the vice president and now one of the key figures in the Plame investigation, had a hand in that draft. Secretary Powell, after checking that document out with the CIA, left out a lot of what the vice president's office wanted in.

Jump ahead now to the summer of 2003. Saddam Hussein had been overthrown as planned, but no WMDs had been found. And Joseph Wilson writes an OP-ED piece in The New York Times talking publicly for the first time about his 2002 trip to Niger to find evidence of an Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from there. Wilson said he found nothing, and he accused the administration of twisting facts as it made the case for war by continuing to make that claim. There was a suggestion in what Wilson wrote that he'd gone to Niger seeking information sought by the vice president's office. Cheney immediately set about denying this. This is from NBC's "Meet the Press" in September of 2003.

(Soundbite of "Meet the Press" from September 2003)

Mr. TIM RUSSERT (Host, "Meet the Press"): Were you briefed on his findings in February, March of 2002?

Vice President DICK CHENEY: No. I don't know Joe Wilson. I've never met Joe Wilson.

GONYEA: That summer, President Bush's top adviser, Karl Rove, and Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby were talking to reporters who have said they talked about Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame. The idea seemed to be to discredit Wilson by saying his wife got him involved and to make clear that the vice president's office did not.

Again, it's not known whether the special prosecutor will bring charges against anyone in this case. If he does, it could be for something other than the law which triggered the investigation. Legal analysts say it's more likely that any indictments would be about efforts to resist the probe, such as obstruction of justice, perjury or conspiracy to obstruct the investigation. The belief that Fitzgerald is nearly done is creating an air of tension and anticipation at the White House. The grand jury hearing testimony in this case is due to be dismissed next week. Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.

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