WASHINGTON – Lawyers for a former top White House aide charged in the CIA leak investigation said Thursday the prosecutor should surrender a wide range of information about news organizations and their reporters, including The Washington Post's Bob Woodward.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has failed to disclose information that would enable the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to properly defend himself, his attorneys argued in papers filed with U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.
Libby is charged with five counts of obstruction, perjury and lying to the FBI about disclosing the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, who is married to former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a Bush administration critic.
A federal grand jury accused Libby of lying when he said he learned about Ms. Wilson's identity from reporters. The indictment contends Libby found out about her identity from the CIA, the State Department and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney.
"The government should not be allowed to charge Mr. Libby with lying about statements concerning what reporters knew about Ms. Wilson's identity, and at the same time deny him information that may establish one of these possible defenses," Libby's lawyers argued in a 23-page brief.
"The government has refused to produce information in its possession about what reporters learned from sources other than Mr. Libby about Ms. Wilson's employment status," Libby's legal team argued.
The prosecutor has asserted that "such documents are not relevant to a perjury and obstruction case."
"It is material to the preparation of the defense to determine the identity of all reporters who know that Ms. Wilson worked for the CIA, and to discover when they learned such information, from whom they learned it and whether they disclosed it further after learning it," Libby's legal team said.
After Libby's Oct. 28 indictment, Woodward disclosed that he had learned of Ms. Wilson's identity in mid-June 2003, some three weeks before her name was first published by conservative columnist Robert Novak.
Libby's lawyers said they still do not know the identity of Woodward's source, though Fitzgerald does.
The indictment says Libby lied when he told investigators he learned of Ms. Wilson's identity from NBC correspondent Tim Russert; when he told Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper that reporters were telling the Bush administration that Ms. Wilson worked for the CIA; and when Libby told investigators he did not discuss Wilson's wife with New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
Libby would have the right to produce testimony that tended to show many reporters knew about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment and that Russert did make the statement Libby allegedly attributed to him, but that Russert had forgotten about it, the court filing stated.
In addition, the defense could argue that Libby's statement to investigators that "all reporters knew" about Ms. Wilson's CIA connection is a factually correct statement that was made to Libby and that it shows Libby "is simply confused about whether Mr. Russert is the source of the statement," the papers added.
The defense says it also has a right to show whether other reporters knew about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment and were discussing that fact with government officials, "some of whom in turn may have shared such information with Mr. Libby," his lawyers said.