WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they have spent $1.44 million so far investigating the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity.
Since Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and other attorneys in the case already were on the government payroll, most of the costs were covered as a "paper transfer" from one government account to another, Fitzgerald's office said.
The only additional cost to taxpayers was $333,000, most of which went to travel and contractual services such as research and court recorders. Investigators did not rent office space in Washington, eliminating an expense that drove up costs for previous investigations involving top government officials.
"We do believe we were very conscientious with the expenditure of taxpayer funds," said Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald's office.
Since 2003, Fitzgerald has been investigating the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame, who claims she was outed as retribution for her husband's criticism of the Bush administration's prewar intelligence.
Nobody has been charged with leaking Plame's name.
The only person charged in the case — former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby — faces perjury and obstruction charges. Libby has raised more than $2 million for his legal defense fund — supporters says he likely will need more.
Fitzgerald's costs were compiled and reported to the Government Accountability Office, which audits special prosecutors twice a year. The GAO is expected to release a report Friday on Fitzgerald's spending for the last six months.
Fitzgerald's office released the total, which is current through Aug. 31, in response to a request Tuesday by The Associated Press.
For comparison, independent counsel David Barrett spent a decade and more than $20 million investigating former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros. The investigation of President Clinton's business dealings cost about $70 million after evolving into an examination of his sexual behavior that resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Independent and special prosecutors are not required to include FBI salaries in their figures. Neither the CIA leak nor the Cisneros investigation included those costs. The Clinton investigation totals included the FBI salaries.
Libby is due in court Wednesday for the first of what could be several closed-door hearings over whether he can use President Bush's daily terrorism briefings and other classified documents as evidence. He wants to show jurors that he didn't lie to authorities — he just didn't remember because he had more weighty issues on his mind.
Prosecutors have said Libby is trying to sabotage the case by requesting so much classified information that the government will be forced to withhold it and let the case be dismissed. It's a legal tactic known as "graymail."