WASHINGTON – A federal judge handed a victory to the defense Thursday in the Valerie Plame case, siding with Vice President Dick Cheney's indicted former chief of staff in a fight over release of classified information.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton decided that he won't impose strict standards sought by prosecutors who want to limit the amount of classified information used in the trial of defendant I. Lewis Libby.
Prosecutors had proposed a stringent three-part legal test that would have allowed information to be considered for the trial only when its benefit to the defense outweighed the government's need to keep it secret.
Walton sided with Libby's lawyers, who said any evidence that's relevant to the case should be considered for use. Once Walton rules on which evidence is relevant, government attorneys can propose portions to be blacked out or summarized, the judge said.
Libby is accused of lying to authorities about conversation he had with reporters regarding the CIA employment of Plame. Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration's intelligence leading up to the Iraq war and the couple has accused Libby and others of leaking Plame's identity as retribution.
Libby, who is charged with perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI, wants access to classified information, including Cheney's daily intelligence memos, to show that Libby had more important things on his mind at the time of the leak and honestly didn't remember his conversations with reporters.
Prosecutors have suggested Libby is trying to derail the case by threatening to expose national secrets — a tactic known as graymail.