Will Seek New
White House Indictments
By Jason Leopold
29 March, 2006
may seem as though it's been moving along at a snail's pace, but the
second part of the federal investigation into the leak of covert CIA
agent Valerie Plame Wilson is nearly complete, with attorneys and government
officials who have remained close to the probe saying that a grand jury
will likely return an indictment against one or two senior Bush administration
These sources work or worked
at the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council.
Some of these sources are attorneys close to the case. They requested
anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the
details of the investigation.
In lengthy interviews over
the weekend and on Monday, they said that Special Prosecutor Patrick
Fitzgerald has started to prepare the paperwork to present to the grand
jury seeking an indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff
Karl Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
Although the situation remains
fluid, it's possible, these sources said, that Fitzgerald may seek to
indict both Rove and Hadley, charging them with perjury, obstruction
of justice, and conspiracy related to their roles in the leak of Plame
Wilson's identity and their effort to cover up their involvement following
a Justice Department investigation.
The sources said late Monday
that it may take more than a month before Fitzgerald presents the paperwork
outlining the government's case against one or both of the officials
and asks the grand jury to return an indictment, because he is currently
juggling quite a few high-profile criminal cases and will need to carve
out time to write up the indictment and prepare the evidence.
In addition to responding
to discovery requests from Libby's defense team and appearing in court
with his attorneys, who are trying to obtain additional evidence, such
as top-secret documents, from Fitzgerald's probe, the special prosecutor
is also prosecuting Lord Conrad Black, the newspaper magnate, has recently
charged numerous individuals in a child pornography ring, and is wrestling
with other lawsuits in his home city of Chicago.
Details about the latest
stage of the investigation began to take shape a few weeks ago when
the lead FBI investigator on the leak case, John C. Eckenrode, retired
from the agency and indicated to several colleagues that the investigation
is about to wrap up with indictments handed up by the grand jury against
Rove or Hadley or both officials, the sources said.
The Philadelphia-based Eckenrode
is finished with his work on the case; however, he is expected to testify
as a witness for the prosecution next year against I. Lewis "Scooter"
Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted
in October on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying
to investigators regarding his role in the leak.
Hadley and Rove remain under
intense scrutiny, but sources said Fitzgerald has not yet decided whether
to seek charges against one or both of them.
Libby and other officials
in Cheney's office used the information they obtained about Plame Wilson
to undermine the credibility of her husband, former Ambassador Joseph
Wilson. Wilson was an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. He had alleged
that President Bush misspoke when he said, in his January 2003 State
of the Union address, that Iraq had tried to acquire yellow-cake uranium,
the key component used to build a nuclear bomb, from Niger.
The uranium claim was the
silver bullet in getting Congress to support military action two months
later. To date, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq,
and the country barely had a functional weapons program, according to
a report from the Iraq Survey Group.
Wilson had traveled to Niger
more than a year earlier to investigate the yellow-cake claims and reported
back to the CIA that intelligence reports saying Iraq attempted to purchase
uranium from Niger were false.
On Monday, though, attorneys
close to the leak case confirmed that Fitzgerald had met with the grand
jury half a dozen times since January and recently told the jurors that
he planned to present them with the government's case against Rove or
Hadley, which stems from an email Rove had sent to Hadley in July of
2003 indicating that he had a conversation about Plame Wilson with Time
magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.
Neither Hadley nor Rove disclosed
the existence of the email when they were questioned by FBI investigators
or when they testified before a grand jury, the sources said, adding
that Rove testified he found out about Plame Wilson from reporters and
Hadley testified that he recalled learning about Plame Wilson when her
name was published in a newspaper column.
Rove testified before the
grand jury four times. He did not disclose the existence of the email
during his first two appearances before the grand jury, claiming he
simply forgot about it because he was enmeshed with the 2004 Presidential
election, traveling around the country attending fundraisers and meetings,
working more than 15 hours a day on the campaign, and just forgot that
he spoke with Cooper three months earlier, sources familiar with his
But Rove and Libby had been
the subject of dozens of news stories about the possibility that they
played a role in the leak, and had faced dozens of questions as early
as August 2003 - one month after Plame Wilson was outed - about whether
they were the administration officials responsible for leaking her identity.
The story Rove and his attorney,
Robert Luskin, provided to Fitzgerald in order to explain why Rove did
not disclose the existence of the email is "less than satisfactory
and entirely unconvincing to the special counsel," one of the attorneys
close to the case said.
Luskin did not return numerous
calls for comment. A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said
she could not comment on an ongoing investigation and has vehemently
denied that Hadley was involved in the leak "because Mr. Hadley
told us he wasn't involved."
In December, Luskin made
a desperate attempt to keep his client out of Fitzgerald's crosshairs.
Luskin had revealed to Fitzgerald
that Viveca Novak - a reporter working for Time magazine who wrote several
stories about the Plame Wilson case - inadvertently tipped him off in
early 2004 that her colleague at the magazine, Matt Cooper, would be
forced to testify that Rove was his source who told him about Plame
Wilson's CIA status.
Novak - who bears no relation
to syndicated columnist Robert Novak, the journalist who first published
Plame Wilson's name and CIA status in a July 14, 2003, column - met
Luskin in Washington DC in 2004, and over drinks, the two discussed
Fitzgerald's investigation into the Plame Wilson leak.
Luskin had assured Novak
that Rove learned Plame Wilson's name and CIA status after it was published
in news accounts and that only then did he phone other journalists to
draw their attention to it. But Novak told Luskin that everyone in the
Time newsroom knew Rove was Cooper's source and that he would testify
to that in an upcoming grand jury appearance, these sources said.
According to Luskin's account,
after he met with Viveca Novak he contacted Rove and told him about
his conversation with her. The two of them then began an exhaustive
search through White House phone logs and emails for any evidence that
proved that Rove had spoken with Cooper. Luskin said that during this
search an email was found that Rove had sent to then-Deputy National
Security Adviser Stephen Hadley immediately after Rove's conversation
with Cooper, and it was subsequently turned over to Fitzgerald.
"I didn't take the bait,"
Rove wrote in the email to Hadley immediately following his conversation
with Cooper on July 11, 2003. "Matt Cooper called to give me a
heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming. When he finished
his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger. Isn't this damaging?
Hasn't the president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if
I were him I wouldn't get Time far out in front on this."
Luskin wound up becoming
a witness in the case and testified about his conversation with Viveca
Novak that Luskin said would prove his client didn't knowingly lie to
FBI investigators when he was questioned about the leak in October 2003,
just three months after Rove told Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for
The email Rove sent to Hadley,
which Luskin said he found, helped Rove recall his conversation with
Cooper a year earlier. Rove then returned to the grand jury to clarify
his previous testimonies in which he did not disclose that he spoke
Still, Rove's account of
his conversation with Cooper went nothing like he had described in his
email to Hadley, according to an email Cooper sent to his editor at
Time magazine following his conversation with Rove in July 2003.
"It was, KR said, [former
Ambassador Joseph] Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency
on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized [Wilson's]
trip," Cooper's July 11, 2003, email to his editor said. "Wilson's
wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the
CIA's Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper
later included the essence of what Rove told him in an online story.)
The email characterizing the conversation continues: "not only
the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report.
he [Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest
in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger... "
It is unclear whether Rove
was misleading Hadley about his conversation with Cooper, perhaps, because
White House officials told their staff not to engage reporters in any
questions posed about Wilson's Niger claims.
But Fitzgerald's investigation
has turned up additional evidence over the past few months that convinced
him that Luskin's eleventh-hour revelation about the chain of events
that led to the discovery of the email is not credible. Fitzgerald believes
that Rove changed his story once it became clear that Cooper would be
compelled to testify about the source - Rove - who revealed Plame Wilson's
CIA status to him, sources close to the case said.
If any of the people named
in this story believe they have been unfairly portrayed or that what
was written in this story is untrue, they will have an opportunity to
respond in this space.
© 2006 Jason Leopold