Attorneys want backstory kept out of CIA leak case

Tuesday, October 31st 2006, 11:01 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby agree on something: keeping Libby's perjury trial in the CIA leak case focused solely on his actions.

The two are separately asking a federal judge not to allow three years of politically charged backstory in the case to seep into Libby's trial starting in January.

In new court documents, Fitzgerald argued that he shouldn't have to explain why Libby was charged while others, including the source of the leak, escaped prosecution. Libby said jurors shouldn't hear about New York Times reporter Judith Miller's 85-day jail term for refusing to discuss her conversations with him.

The court documents, filed late Monday, are an effort to keep the trial focused on whether Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, lied to investigators about his conversation with reporters regarding CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Libby's supporters have accused Fitzgerald of singling him out while not charging the source of the leak, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Fitzgerald wrote Monday that discussing that issue would be irrelevant.

"If Mr. X was investigated for leaking classified information, the government's decision not to charge Mr. X should have nothing to do with the jury's role as the finder of fact in Libby's case," Fitzgerald wrote.

The prosecutor is trying to prevent Libby's attorneys from making the argument that Libby had no reason to lie because, if he had leaked classified information, prosecutors would have charged him with it.

Similarly, Libby's attorneys said it would be unfair for prosecutors to discuss Miller's refusal to testify or the lengthy court fight involving other reporters. Miller cooperated with investigators after serving 85 days in jail.

"The introduction of these issues would undoubtedly cause jurors to wonder whether Ms. Miller went to jail in an effort to shield Mr. Libby from liability, and whether Mr. Libby is to blame for her incarceration," defense attorneys wrote.

If such testimony is allowed at trial, defense attorneys said they might have to call Fitzgerald as a witness to discuss his role in getting Miller and others to testify.

Plame believes her identity was leaked as retribution for her husband's criticism of the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq. Defense attorneys also asked a federal judge to block discussions about whether Plame's CIA status was classified or whether releasing that information jeopardized her safety or national security.