Video: Leak Probe 101

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updated 10/17/2005 8:46:18 PM ET 2005-10-18T00:46:18

New York Times reporter Judy Miller testified to the grand jury it was Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, who told her the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson worked at the CIA.  In Sunday’s Times, Miller added that she and Libby spoke about Wilson on three separate occasions, starting on June 23, 2003, two weeks before Wilson publicly undercut White House claims about Iraq’s nuclear program, and then again on July 8, two days after, when Libby offered Miller what she described as a lengthy and sharp critique of Mr. Wilson. 

Judith Miller’s attorney Bob Bennett said, “If he said that he had not talked to Judy about these things or didn’t talk about the wife, then he’s got a problem. 

Another problem for Libby may be a letter he sent Miller while she was in jail this summer for refusing to testify. 

Libby wrote, "I believed a year ago, as now, that testimony by all will benefit all.  The public report of every other reporter’s testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame’s name or identify me."

“Our reaction when we got that letter, both Judy's and mine, is that was a very stupid thing to put in the letter, because it just complicated the situation,” said Bennett.

Complicated, because to Miller and Bennett, the Libby letter sounded like guidance or coaching. 

As Miller wrote, "It might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say that we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity."

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's focus on this suggests this grand jury may be considering possible obstruction of justice. 

Regarding the actual leaks two years ago aimed at destroying Wilson, Bloomberg News reports the prosecutor has questioned several current and former White House officials about Vice President Cheney.  Cheney communications adviser Catherine Martin, former spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise and former White House aide Jim Wilkinson have all been asked, according to Bloomberg, about Cheney's knowledge of the anti-Wilson campaign and about the vice president's conversations with Chief of Staff Scooter Libby. 

One conversation, according to the New York Times, came on July 12, 2003, six days after Wilson publicly criticized the White House. 

According to Sol Wisenberg, former deputy ind. counsel, “You send somebody to do something that would be a crime if you did it, then you are just as guilty, even if that person doesn’t even know what you are doing. “

Those criminal statutes are known as "aiding and abetting."

Another statute that Fitzgerald could be reviewing is conspiracy.  Prosecutors tend to love conspiracy charges because the rules of evidence are easier, meaning you can get more in to help prove a crime. 

“You could even get a statement in that one co-conspirator person said to another co-conspirator that a third co-conspirator — who isn’t even in the room — told me x,” said  Wisenberg.  “Normally, that completely would not get in.  But here — it would even be double hearsay — but here it gets in if you can convince the judge this is part of a conspiracy.” 

Still, many conspiracies are not criminal, even conspiracies that involve slamming somebody.  Were officials in the White House simply playing rough as they defended themselves and attacked a critic, or did they go too far and then try to cover it up?  The grand jury is scheduled to meet next on Wednesday. 

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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