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The Cheney factor

CIA leak investigation focusing on vice president's office
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Vice President Dick Cheney has just been dragged into the investigation of the CIA leak. NBC News confirmed the special prosecutor has already questioned two people on or formerly on the vice president‘s staff about his possible involvement in the leak, Cheney‘s adviser, Catherine Martin, and his former spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise. 

The vice president‘s current spokeswoman declined comment about whether prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has contacted Cheney directly since he gave unsworn testimony to the investigators last year.

As for his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, New York Times reporter Judith Miller previously identified as him as her source.  However, she now says that he did not leak the name of Ambassador Wilson‘s wife, and that she told the special prosecutor she cannot remember who did.

Miller said, “Mr. Fitzgerald asked me about another entry in my notebook, where I had written the words ‘Valerie Flame,‘ clearly a reference to Ms.  Plame.  Mr. Fitzgerald wanted to know whether the entry was based on my conversations with Mr. Libby.  I said I didn‘t think so.  I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall.”

But even if he did not leak Valerie Plame‘s name, Libby could still face charges of obstruction of justice. 

According to Time magazine, both Libby and Karl Rove have made contingency plans in case of indictment.  They would reportedly resign immediately, making a clean break with the White House for the sake of the administration and its continuity.

But while that may be the plan behind the scene, in public, the White House still maintains a wait-and-see policy.

MSNBC-TV's Keith Olbermann spoke to Newsweek magazine's chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman, about the newest player added to the CIA leak investigation lineup.

KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST: First, Mr. Fitzgerald asked Judith Miller about the vice president.  We know about that from what she wrote.  And she said he didn‘t know much about any of what she supposedly discussed with Mr. Libby.  But then Mr.  Fitzgerald also asked this staffer and the former staffer of the vice president about the vice president.  Is he indeed being scrutinized here about a possible role in the leak?  And if so, do we have any idea what role?

HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE: Well, my understanding is, they‘re at least nibbling around the edges here, because it‘s quite possible that the special prosecutor‘s theory of this case is that there was a conspiracy.  It may be a pretty big one, because we‘re talking about the vice president of the United States‘ chief of staff, Scooter Libby.  We‘re talking about Karl Rove, we‘re talking about seven or eight people who are part of something called a White House Iraq Group.

Their job, in the months leading up to the Iraq war, and in the months after it, was to sell the justification for the war, specifically the presence weapons of mass destruction, and then, frankly, to try to steamroller anybody who got in their way and opposed their arguments after the invasion and the occupation of Iraq began.

I think it‘s that group of people that the special prosecutor‘s looking at.  Several of those people were very, very close, I mean, very, very close to the vice president.  The question then becomes the classic one from a generation ago, what did he know, and when did he know it?  And we‘re talking about the vice president.

OLBERMANN: You touched on the big picture on this story, and Bob Bennett, who is Judith Miller‘s lawyer, said to “This Week” on ABC yesterday, Fitzgerald is putting together a big case.  You just used similar terminology.  How big are we talking?  I mean, could this actually wind up referencing the whole premise of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or any of the other justifications for the war there?

FINEMAN: Yes, I think so, I think so, Keith.  And in an odd way, I think we‘re going to reargue the run-up to the war in Iraq, and the aftermath of it, all the justifications that were made by Colin Powell and the United Nations that had to do with weapons of mass destruction, because I think the special prosecutor, Fitzgerald, is looking for motivation here.  He‘s looking for why the people he‘s been investigating might have wanted to leak Valerie Plame‘s name, why they wanted to intimidate, perhaps, Joe Wilson and his wife.

The answer, clearly, is politics.  But now it‘s going to be politics reargued and looked again, if he does bring indictments in a court of law.  This has happened before in American history.  It seems to happen all the time now since the Watergate days.  First we argue something in politics, then we argue it in law.  I think it looks like that‘s destined to happen in this case.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Libby was already a direct link to Mr. Cheney in this, even if Mr. Cheney had nothing to do with the leaking of the name.  But now you have two other names put in here, Martin, and the ironically named Miller-Wise, in addition to Ms. Miller.  Are there too many coincidences, too many juxtapositions, too much of a circle drawn around the vice president‘s office?

FINEMAN: Well, look, from the prosecutor‘s point of view, he‘s got the chief of staff of the vice president‘s office in his sights, clearly.  And, you know, the betting around here is, it‘s quite likely that that‘s the number one target is Scooter Libby.  Scooter Libby is very close, has a very close working relationship with the vice president.  The vice president has a small office with with a small group of people who work very closely together.  He‘s got to look at that.  He interviewed the vice president once, not under oath.  If he does it again, obviously know that we know there‘s a bigger story on our hands than we imagined.