A snippet of a conversation between Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and an unnamed source in mid-June 2003 appears to be a major focus of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby's defense in the CIA leak case.
According to a newly released transcript of last week's motions hearing in U.S. District Court, William Jeffress, one of Libby's attorneys, is focusing on three words — “Everyone knows it.”
Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted last year on charges that he lied about how he learned that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA operative and when he told reporters.
Woodward revealed in November that a senior administration official — in addition to Libby — told him about Plame and her position at the CIA nearly a month before her identity was disclosed by syndicated newspaper columnist Robert Novak in July 2003.
A transcript and affidavit filed Thursday indicate that Woodward taped his conversation with his unnamed source.
Jeffress was given a redacted transcript of the conversation Woodward had with his unnamed source, according to an affidavit filed by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald on Thursday. The Libby team wants the full transcript of the conversation in order to argue that the phrase “Everyone knows it,” uttered by Woodward's source in that 2003 conversation, means that Plame's job at the CIA was common knowledge among Washington journalists.
“Who did he mean by ‘Everyone knows it'?” Jeffress asked the judge.
According to Jeffress, the only inkling of the source's identity in the redacted document “is some person not in the White House.”
Fitzgerald writes in his affidavit that Libby is not entitled to know everything that the government investigation has learned about other leaks to reporters regarding Plame's employment at the CIA. He says that granting Libby’s request for more information, “would compromise 'innocent accused' in the investigation” and delve into irrelevant matters.
U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton sided with the prosecution and decided to continue to protect the anonymity of the confidential source.
In asking for access to the tape, Jeffress said, “We know of two reporters that 'official one' talked to. ... We do know that he did discuss Ms. Wilson with at least two reporters.”
The Libby defense said the information would help it investigate which other reporters knew and might have mentioned Plame's name. Jeffress also said he wants “to confront Mr. (Tim) Russert with what other reporters knew."
Tim Russert is NBC’s Washington bureau chief and host of "Meet the Press." Libby is said to have testified that Russert told him the name of the CIA agent. Russert has said he did not know Plame or that she worked at the CIA and "he did not provide that information to Libby."
(MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)
Libby's trial date has been set for January 2007.