Unanswered Questions Remain in CIA Leak Case
LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
The five-count indictment this past Friday of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff answered some of the many questions that have swirled around the case of who leaked a CIA agent's name to the media, but the charges against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of committing perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice fail to fill key remaining gaps in the scandal that has rocked the Bush administration. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on what the indictment says and what it does not say.
ARI SHAPIRO reporting:
Former US attorney Tom DiBaggio says there is no fat on this indictment.
Mr. TOM DiBAGGIO (Former US Attorney): It really focuses in on one man who lied about three conversations in front of the grand jury and with FBI, so it's a very focused and very surgical type indictment.
SHAPIRO: That means people won't find a detailed road map to who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame here. Still, the indictment does answer some broad questions that DiBaggio and others have had.
Mr. DiBAGGIO: His answer is first a political question: Was there an effort to discredit Mr. Wilson? And I think the answer to that is yes.
SHAPIRO: Joseph Wilson is Valerie Plame's husband, a former diplomat and a critic of the administration's justification for war with Iraq. The indictment describes conversations that high-level White House officials had about him. It says, `On or about July 12th, 2003, Libby flew with the vice president and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia, on Air Force Two. On his return trip, Libby discussed with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries.' That description also caught the attention of DC attorney Aitan Goelman. Goelman used to work with Fitzgerald as a prosecutor in New York.
Mr. AITAN GOELMAN (Attorney): This is a lot of detail. You actually have, you know, almost an hour-by-hour narrative about what happened that day. But he makes a point of saying that Cheney's on the plane, makes a point of saying that they discuss this on the return trip; it's clear that he knows that conversation happened, when it happened. Presumably, they know who participated in it and what was said.
SHAPIRO: From there, Goelman makes an inference about what his former co-worker is thinking.
Mr. GOELMAN: I think that the indications from the indictment is that Pat believes Mr. Libby lied to protect his boss, that the reason he said that, you know, he learned of Ms. Plame's identity from reporters and not from inside the government, including from Vice President Cheney, is that he wanted to insulate the vice president from any exposure from this scandal.
SHAPIRO: Libby claims he never lied at all. He says he testified to the best of his honest recollection. Cheney talked with FBI agents in 2004, but the content of that conversation is not public. Fitzgerald refused to comment about Cheney or anyone who wasn't named in the indictment.
Another man not named in the indictment is the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove. After months of speculation, he was not charged on Friday. Now, says attorney Goelman, it's unclear what Fitzgerald plans to do.
Mr. GOELMAN: If he felt that he had enough right now to charge Karl Rove, presumably there wouldn't have been any reason to wait. And, you know, what that tells you is that Pat probably understands that if you shoot the king, you'd better kill him. He doesn't want any acquittals.
SHAPIRO: The underlying offense that Fitzgerald was assigned to investigate was nowhere on the list of charges, either, and that's another mystery. Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker is former general counsel to the CIA and now dean of University of the Pacific McGeorge Law School. She calls it peculiar that the law making it a crime to leak an undercover CIA agent's identity was not used.
Ms. ELIZABETH RINDSKOPF PARKER (Dean, McGeorge Law School; Former CIA General Counsel): Now the question, I suppose, we have to ask is, why wasn't it used? And is that because there was no knowledge on the part of the person indicted here, Scooter Libby, that this individual was, in fact, in a sensitive position, if, indeed, she were?
SHAPIRO: Parker notes that obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury are much easier to prove than revealing an undercover agent's identity. The latter requires prosecutors to show that the leaker intended to harm America's national security.
Ms. PARKER: One strategy that prosecutors use is to begin with a small charge in the hopes that, in negotiating some sort of settlement of that charge, there may be further information provided that may implicate someone who has been more significantly involved. My question is whether that's something that's going on here.
SHAPIRO: The special prosecutor will not be giving any answers to these questions before the trial begins. He said Friday's news conference would be his last public statement on the subject. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.