NewsweekFeb. 13, 2006 issue - Newly released court papers could put holes in the defense of Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, in the Valerie Plame leak case. Lawyers for Libby, and White House allies, have repeatedly questioned whether Plame, the wife of White House critic Joe Wilson, really had covert status when she was outed to the media in July 2003. But special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald found that Plame had indeed done "covert work overseas" on counterproliferation matters in the past five years, and the CIA "was making specific efforts to conceal" her identity, according to newly released portions of a judge's opinion. (A CIA spokesman at the time is quoted as saying Plame was "unlikely" to take further trips overseas, though.) Fitzgerald concluded he could not charge Libby for violating a 1982 law banning the outing of a covert CIA agent; apparently he lacked proof Libby was aware of her covert status when he talked about her three times with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Fitzgerald did consider charging Libby with violating the so-called Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of "national defense information," the papers show; he ended up indicting Libby for lying about when and from whom he learned about Plame.The new papers show Libby testified he was told about Plame by Cheney "in an off sort of curiosity sort of fashion" in mid-June—before he talked about her with Miller and Time magazine's Matt Cooper. Libby's trial has been put off until January 2007, keeping Cheney off the witness stand until after the elections. A spokeswoman for Libby's lawyers declined to comment on Plame's status.
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