Attorneys for former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby dismissed the idea of a White House plot to leak a CIA operative's identity to the press and said Libby plans to tell jurors at his perjury trial that he had no reason to lie.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent years investigating who leaked Valerie Plame Wilson's identity to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in 2003. While nobody was charged with the leak, Libby is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters.

Fitzgerald wants to keep most of that backstory out of Libby's trial in January. But in court documents filed Tuesday, defense attorneys said they have a right to argue that Libby doesn't believe he did anything wrong.

Novak's story ran as Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq. Former State Department official Richard Armitage has acknowledged being the source for Novak's column, a fact that neither defense attorneys nor prosecutors discussed in legal filings until Tuesday.

"It is doubtful that anyone committed an 'underlying crime' here," Libby's lawyers wrote. "The government's investigation began as an effort to discover which government officials had 'leaked' Ms. Wilson's affiliation with the CIA to Mr. Novak. After years of overheated media speculation that Ms. Wilson's identity had been publicly revealed as part of a White House plot to wreak revenge on her husband, Mr. Armitage (who was no White House ally) finally confirmed in August 2006 that he was Mr. Novak's primary source."

Libby's attorneys said Fitzgerald has perpetuated the notion that Libby was the source and said the former aide should be allowed to tell jurors that he was not — and thus had no reason to lie to the FBI or grand jury.

"Members of the jury will have heard for years that Mr. Libby leaked classified information about Valerie Wilson's affiliation with the CIA, due to inaccurate reports in the press," defense attorneys wrote. "Indeed, the government has contributed to the likely misimpressions that potential jurors will have about this case."

Fitzgerald has not specifically commented on that allegation. In court papers, he has argued that the upcoming trial should not be a forum to debate the leak itself or question why Libby was charged and others weren't.