Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald declined Wednesday to brief members of the House Oversight Committee who are investigating how the White House dealt with the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to reporters in 2003, NBC News has learned that.
Plame, who was exposed after her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, criticized President Bush's prewar intelligence on Iraq, will testify before the committee on Friday.
Fitzgerald, in a letter Wednesday to committee Chairman Henry Waxman, said it would be inappropriate to offer his opinion about the "ultimate responsibility of senior White House officials for the disclosure of Ms. Plame's identity, or the sufficiency of the remedial measures that White House officials took after the leak."
The special counsel, who last week won a courtroom victory when a jury convicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on four of five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, said, "I do not think I could offer cogent views or opinions" on the adequacy of regulations addressing the improper disclosure of classified information.
Fitzgerald told Waxman that it is long-standing Justice Department policy of declining to provide "non-public information about pending law enforcement matters, including briefings."
He pointed out that Libby's attorneys plan to file motions for a new trial prior to his sentencing, which is scheduled for June.
Fitzgerald offered only that the committee might examine court filings and trial testimony. "You may wish to review the substantial information gathered during our investigation, (especially as it concerned Mr. Libby in particular)," said the prosecutor.
In a letter sent last week to Fitzgerald, Waxman proposed a meeting with him and ranking Republican Tom Davis to discuss the terms of his potential testimony.
"The trial proceedings raise questions about whether senior White House officials, including the vice president and Senior Adviser to the President Karl Rove, complied with the requirements governing the handling of classified information," Waxman wrote in his invitation to Fitzgerald.
"They also raise questions about whether the White House took appropriate remedial action following the leak and whether the existing requirements are sufficient to protect against future leaks," Waxman added. "Your perspective on these matters is important."
Fitzgerald added in his response, "I appreciate the Committee's important oversight interests, but also trust that you will appreciate my position in this matter."