I. Lewis Libby
Haraz N. Ghanbari  /  AP file
Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, indicted on perjury and obstruction charges last year in the CIA leak scandal, has the potential of derailing the proceedings on the grounds of national security.
By Producer
NBC News
updated 9/28/2006 12:29:56 PM ET 2006-09-28T16:29:56

The second day of closed-door, pre-trial hearings in the CIA/Leak case got underway this morning, dealing with determining which, if any, classified documents I Lewis "Scooter" Libby will be allowed to use for his defense at trial.

Libby wants to use the daily intelligence briefings (PDBs) and terrorism threat assessments (TTMs) as evidence to show he was so preoccupied with sensitive national security matters that he did not remember - what his lawyer's describe as "insignificant" - details about his conversations with reporters about Valerie Plame, the wife of former Amb. Joseph Wilson.

Libby says, in court papers, that records from 2003 and early 2004 will show he did not lie to investigators about his role in the leak of the CIA officer's identity.

"Graymail" gambit
Prosecutors have said Libby is attempting to derail the case by requesting so much classified information at his trial that the government will have no choice but to withhold it and force case to be dismissed - a legal tactic known as "graymail."

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has argued in court papers this week that the intelligence briefings Libby has requested fall outside the rules of evidence and should not be allowed as evidence.

Many boxes, of what are believed to be the classified documents and summaries at issue, were carried into the courtroom both by prosecutors, and Libby's attorneys.

Top secret secrets
Neither party can discuss the actual contents of the documents.  But, they are thought to contain, among other things, information about covert operations and informants - details are so sensitive that cannot be revealed even to many intelligence officials.

The classified documents the CIA has provided Libby for review, are for the time periods: 7 June - 14 July 2003, 12-16 October 2003, 24-28 November 2003, 3-7 March 2004, and 22-26 March 2004.

The June-July 2003 time period is crucial to the charges brought against Libby. It is alleged by Fitzgerald that in mid June, 2003 Libby was first informed by the Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman that Wilson's wife works for the CIA and that she might have been involved with Wilson's Niger trip. On June 23rd, Libby had the first meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Libby is alleged to have informed her that Wilson's wife might work at a bureau of the CIA.

On July 6th, in an Op-Ed article in Times, Wilson asserted that the White House ''twisted'' the intelligence about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear material. Libby maintains that he believed he was learning about Wilson's wife's identity for the first time when he spoke with NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert on July 10 or 11 regarding coverage of the Niger issue by MSNBC correspondent Chris Matthews. On July 14th, a column by Robert Novak revealed that Mr. Wilson's wife, ''Valerie Plame, was an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction,'' prompting an investigation into whether government officials disclosed her identity.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has acknowledged recently that he was the one who revealed Plame's job to syndicated columnist Robert Novak and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward but said it was inadvertent.

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Two rounds of hearing expected
After this round of hearings, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton will decide what documents should be allowed as evidence. He will then hold a second hearing, which also could also take several days, to decide how the documents should be redacted or summarized to protect national security.

Libby is accused of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI about his conversations in 2003 with three reporters regarding how he learned of and what he told them about CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin on January 17th.

Joel Seidman is an NBC News producer based in Washington.

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