WASHINGTON – Testimony by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward in the CIA leak case is a bombshell to the special prosecutor's case against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, an attorney for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff told FOX News on Wednesday.
The disclosure by Woodward in Wednesday's Post shows that Libby was not the first government official to tell a reporter the secret identity of a CIA operative, said Ted Wells, one of Libby's lawyers.
Libby resigned from his position immediately after he was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges last month. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald alleged the former aide lied about his role in revealing the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to reporters.
Plame Wilson is the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Her name was first revealed in a column by Robert Novak in July 2003.
Woodward wrote in his account of the testimony that he talked to Libby on June 20 and June 27 but didn't recall Libby mentioning Plame Wilson. Woodward's account undermines Fitzgerald's argument that Libby was involved in a scheme to discredit Plame Wilson by leaking her name and identity to the press, Wells said.
If found guilty, Libby faces a maximum 30 years in prison and $1.25 million fine, though it's unlikely with his record of public service that he would receive a maximum sentence.
Meanwhile, Libby returned to a federal courthouse to review documents on Wednesday. Because the documents are classified in the Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility, or SCIF, individuals are not permitted to remove the information from the courthouse and must be accompanied by a Justice Department official while viewing the data.
The former vice presidential chief of staff arrived at the courthouse hours after the Post reported that at least one unnamed senior Bush administration official told Woodward about Plame Wilson about a month before her identity was revealed in published reports.
The newspaper reported that Woodward told Fitzgerald that the official talked to him about Plame Wilson in mid-June 2003. Woodward and editors at the Post refused to identify the official to reporters other than to say it was not Libby.
Woodward said he has not been released to disclose his source's name publicly.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Karl Rove's legal team, said Rove was not the official who talked to Woodward. Rove is a top deputy to President Bush and was referred to, but not by name, in Libby's indictment, as having discussed Plame Wilson's identity with reporters.
Libby was indicted last month on one charge of obstruction of justice and two counts each of making false statements and perjury in connection with Fitzgerald's investigation.
On June 23, Libby told New York Times reporter Judith Miller that Wilson's wife might work at the CIA. Robert Novak, in a column published July 14, identified Plame Wilson as a CIA operative.
Woodward's testimony in a two-hour deposition Monday would mean that another White House official told a reporter about Plame Wilson before Libby revealed her identity to Miller. In a statement about the testimony, Woodward said he was asked if he could have given Plame Wilson's name to Libby during a question and answer session, but that he did not recollect doing so.
"It is now clear that Mr. Libby's allegation by his lawyers that his memory was simply faulty makes a lot more sense now that we know that Bob Woodward was in fact the first person to receive that information not from Mr. Libby, but from another, apparently former, government official," said attorney Joe DiGenova.
In the announcement of the indictment against Libby, Fitzgerald asserted that no one really knew Wilson's wife worked at the CIA until Libby disclosed it. In effect, Libby started the whole thing.
"He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly," Fitzgerald said.
William Jeffress Jr., one of Libby's lawyers, told the Post that Woodward's testimony raises questions about his client's indictment. "Will Mr. Fitzgerald now say he was wrong to say on TV that Scooter Libby was the first official to give this information to a reporter?" Jeffress said.
Added former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing of Fitzgerald: "He has been investigating a very simple factual scenario and he has missed this crucial fact. It makes you cry out for asking, 'Well what else did he not know, what else did he not do?'"
A best-selling author, Woodward, famous for his investigation with Carl Bernstein of the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration, is now assistant managing editor of the Post. In October, he was dismissive of the outing of Plame Wilson, telling a cable news show that the damage from her exposure was "quite minimal."
Also on Wednesday, some news organizations asked U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton to deny a court motion by Fitzgerald for a blanket protective order keeping all pretrial evidence in Libby's case out of public view.
The special prosecutor is seeking a court order that would prohibit Libby and his legal team from publicly disclosing "all materials produced by the government."
FOX News' Jim Angle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.