Sunday, October 15, 2006

Libby: it's not the NIE

The vagueness of Cheney's instruction to get everything out may allow Fitzgerald to argue that Libby both followed what he understood to be Cheney's desire but blew Plame's cover at his own initiative. That would enable the special prosecutor to avoid the risk of portraying Libby before the jury as the loyal subordinate of a powerful -- and deeply unsympathetic -- boss. But more dramatically, deep in one of the hearings last spring during the discovery phase, Fitzgerald came closer to indicating that he believes, and may argue at trial, that Libby was acting on more explicit directions from Cheney to disclose Plame's CIA status to Miller -- on the basis of Libby's own notes.

Fitzgerald explained that Libby's notes contain an instruction from Cheney to "tell information to Ms. Miller on July 8." Libby's position is that "the instruction reflected in his notes to tell … Judith Miller refers to the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate]. He says he did not discuss Mr. Wilson's wife that day. To our understand[ing] both were discussed."

In other words, Libby claims he was instructed by Cheney only to disclose to Miller portions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi WMD. Fitzgerald suggested that Libby was directed to tell Miller about Plame as well, which is what he went on to do.

Whether Fitzgerald follows up on that suggestion at trial and argues that Cheney explicitly instructed Libby to disclose Plame's CIA status, or only claims that Libby understood that to be the conduct expected of him, remains to be seen. Either way, the role of Cheney and Libby working together will be the most interesting aspect of Libby's trial.

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