Video: Indicted aide to name Cheney?

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updated 2/10/2006 4:10:28 PM ET 2006-02-10T21:10:28

According to the “National Journal,” Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney‘s former chief-of-staff testified to a federal grand jury that he was authorized by the vice president and other superiors to leak classified information to journalists, in order to defend the administration‘s case for war in Iraq. 

It seems to me like a bombshell the fact that the man on trial now, about to go to trial for having broken the law by either lying under oath or obstruction of justice in the leak case, is now telling prosecutors that his boss told him to do it.

What makes it so significant is this now marks the very first time that the defense is putting Vice President Cheney right at the heart of these leaks about Valerie Wilson, the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson. 

Legal sources in case are telling us that this came up recently in a conference call with the judge in the case and Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.  There was a discussion about evidence and requests by the defense, by Scooter Libby to get classified documents and it was during this conversation, according to lawyers, that Scooter Libby‘s lawyers said that part of their defense is based on the idea that Scooter Libby was acting on orders by his superiors, including Vice President Cheney. 

This conference call was a follow up to an exchange of letters between Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and Scooter Libby.  Again, they are battling over classified information and Scooter Libby‘s lawyers wrote to Patrick Fitzgerald and they said, quote, “as we discussed during our telephone conversation, Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the national intelligence estimate in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003.  We also note that it is our understanding that Mr.  Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors.”

Part of what is going on here is that the—Scooter Libby‘s lawyers are about to file a motion to try to have the case dismissed and one of the arguments they‘re going to make is because they cannot get some of these classified documents from the White House, Scooter Libby therefore is having his due process rights violated and therefore the judge should throw out the case.

Prosecutors have countered that no, these classified documents that the White House does not want to turn over, these are irrelevant to whether Scooter Libby was honest, whether he was truthful when he testified to the grand jury about his conversations with reporters about Valerie Wilson. 

There you have the vice president, the White House, trying to defend going to the war not only before the war started but after the war.  So for example, after the war has begun and there you have Joe Wilson saying, “Well, wait a second.  The administration essentially misled the American people about why we needed to go into war.”

What this shows is that the vice president, according to Scooter Libby‘s own lawyers, the vice president was involved in trying to essentially undercut this administration critic, that there was the vice president, not only talking with Scooter Libby, not only advising Scooter Libby that yes, Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA, not only talking with Scooter Libby about that on the very day that Scooter Libby then talked to reporters.

But now according to Scooter Libby‘s own lawyers, Libby was acting under instructions or perhaps some judgment made by his boss, the vice president.  The reason however this may not prove some sort of legal jeopardy for the vice president is because remember, nobody is charged with actually a violation of the Espionage Act with the actual leak.

Libby is charged with not telling the truth during the course of the investigation.  The way this matters is if it now seems or now comes across that his untruthful statements, as prosecutors suggest, were in any way coached or the result of whatever the vice president was telling him, then that explains the possible avenue for prosecutors to go after the vice president if, they can get a conviction of Scooter Libby.

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