Politics & Policy

Fitzgerald: Was Any Damage Done by The Valerie Wilson Leak? I Don’t Know.

The CIA leak prosecutor refuses to turn over evidence to Lewis Libby.

Watchers of the CIA leak investigation are buzzing over a series of letters between prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and lawyers for former Cheney chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby. In the letters, contained in motions filed recently by Libby’s defense team and released by the court, Fitzgerald steadfastly refused to reveal whether he has any evidence that Bush administration officials violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, the Espionage Act, or any other law by revealing the identity of CIA employee Valerie Wilson.

Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in the leak investigation, but Fitzgerald has so far not alleged that anyone acted illegally by revealing Wilson’s identity. In the letters, which give outsiders a glimpse of the intense behind-the-scenes maneuvering going on in the case, Libby’s lawyers asked Fitzgerald to turn over evidence that might point toward such an underlying crime. Fitzgerald refused.

In a December 14, 2005, letter to Fitzgerald, Libby’s lawyers asked for “Any assessment done of the damage (if any) caused by the disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s status as a CIA employee.” In the same letter, Libby’s team asked for “All documents, regardless of when created, relating to whether Valerie Wilson’s status as a CIA employee, or any aspect of that status, was classified at any time between May 6, 2003 and July 14, 2003.” (Those dates mark the period in which some Bush-administration officials discussed Wilson with reporters.)

Fitzgerald declined both requests. “A formal assessment has not been done of the damage caused by the disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s status as a CIA employee, and thus we possess no such document,” he wrote in a January 9, 2006, response. In any event, Fitzgerald argued, “we would not view an assessment of the damaged caused by the disclosure as relevant to the issue of whether or not Mr. Libby intentionally lied when he made the statements and gave the grand jury testimony that the grand jury alleged was false.”

On the question of Wilson’s status, Fitzgerald wrote, “We have neither sought, much less obtained, ‘all documents, regardless of when created, relating to whether Valerie Wilson’s status as a CIA employee, or any aspect of that status, was classified at any time between May 6, 2003 and July 14, 2003.’” Although Fitzgerald said that “if we locate” such documents, he might turn them over, he argued that he has no responsibility to do so, because they are not relevant to the perjury and obstruction of justice prosecution.

In a later letter, dated January 23, 2006, Fitzgerald went further, refusing to provide information about whether Wilson was an undercover agent during the last five years. Referring to a 1963 Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to turn over evidence that might point toward the defendant’s innocence, Fitzgerald wrote, “We do not agree that if there were any documents indicating that Ms. Wilson did not act in an undercover capacity or did not act covertly in the five years prior to July 2003 (which we neither confirm nor deny) that any such documents would constitute Brady material in a case where Mr. Libby is not charged with a violation of statutes prohibiting the disclosure of classified information.”

Fitzgerald’s January 23 letter also referred to a conflict between the two sides over the actions of Valerie Wilson’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. “You demand access to all documents referencing Mr. Wilson’s 2002 trip to Iraq,” Fitzgerald wrote to Libby’s lawyers in what is apparently a mistaken reference to Joseph Wilson’s 2002 trip to Niger that became the focus of contention after his wife’s CIA employment was made public. Prosecutors will not turn it over, Fitzgerald wrote. “The relevance of Mr. Wilson’s 2002 trip is the fact that it occurred and that it became a subject of discussion in spring 2003. What took place during that trip is not relevant to the issue of whether Mr. Libby lied about his spring 2003 conversations with various reporters and government officials about Mr. Wilson’s wife’s employment at the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Still, Fitzgerald wrote that his office will turn over “all documents in our possession reflecting conversations involving defendant Libby about Wilson’s trip, or meetings Mr. Libby attended during which Mr. Wilson’s trip was discussed.” Fitzgerald also wrote that he does not expect to call Wilson to testify at the Libby trial.

So far, there has been little attention paid to Fitzgerald’s statements on the possibility of underlying crimes in the CIA leak case. Instead, much attention has focused on a paragraph at the end of Fitzgerald’s January 23 letter in which Fitzgerald wrote that “We have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system.” That statement has fueled much speculation on left-wing blogs that some sort of cover-up has taken place and that the White House has destroyed evidence in the leak investigation. In all the documents made public so far, however, Fitzgerald has not suggested that that has happened.

Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President–and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.


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