Published October 30, 2009
An FBI summary of Cheney's interview from 2004 reflects that the vice president had deep concern about Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador in Africa who said the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI in the probe of who leaked Plame's identity to the news media. At the end of Libby's trial, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said that "there is a cloud over the vice president" in the leaking of Plame's identity.
Following Libby's conviction, President George W. Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence but rejected Cheney's vehement appeals to pardon Libby.
The 28-page FBI interview summary was released Friday to a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which sued to get the material under the Freedom of Information Act.
In the interview, whose participants included Fitzgerald, Cheney told agents that he did not recall having a conversation about either Plame or her husband with Bush.
The vice president said he probably discussed Wilson with Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, but told the FBI he would not have talked to Rove about Wilson's wife.
Cheney's denials that he talked about Plame are among the few things in the lengthy interview with the FBI that Cheney appeared certain about. He repeatedly said he could not recall key events. Among them, he said he did not recall discussing Wilson's wife with Libby before her CIA employment was publicly revealed by conservative columnist Robert Novak in mid-July 2003.
Evidence at Libby's criminal trial showed that Cheney had told Libby about Wilson's wife in mid-June 2003.
According to courtroom testimony, Rove was one of Novak's sources for his column disclosing Plame's CIA identity and Rove and Libby were sources for Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, who also wrote a story identifying Plame.
Cheney said he was not aware of any discussions Libby may have had with Rove about Wilson or Wilson's wife, and Cheney said Libby did not tell him about any such discussions.
The vice president advised the agents that he had no idea what Libby knew on the days before Plame's CIA identity was publicly revealed.
Cheney said he did not recall if he told Libby about Wilson's wife and her employment at the CIA or if Libby revealed to the vice president his independent knowledge about that fact.
In a New York Times opinion piece in July 2003, Wilson accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq's efforts to buy a uranium "yellowcake," in the African nation of Niger. Bush referred to the yellowcake during his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union speech to Congress as he was trying to rally support for going to war with Iraq. Yellowcake is a powdered form of uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon if purified and enriched.
The year before, the CIA had sent Wilson to Niger to determine the accuracy of the uranium reports. Wilson brought back denials of any sale and argued such a sale was not likely to happen.
In his FBI interview, Cheney said his initial reaction to the Wilson article was his sense that it was "amateur hour" out at the CIA.
Cheney said The New York Times piece was disturbing. Cheney said he was most disturbed because it was now being made to look as though the vice president had personally sent Wilson on the trip. The vice president said that all he had done was to make a legitimate inquiry of a CIA briefer in February 2002 about Niger and Iraq.
Plame was outed in Novak's column as a CIA employee eight days after Wilson attacked the administration in The New York Times piece.