New evidence shows Cheney swayed CIA leak response

WASHINGTON — A document filed in federal court this week by the Justice Department offers new evidence that former Vice President Dick Cheney helped steer the Bush administration's public response to the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson's employment by the CIA.

It shows he was at the center of many related deliberations in the administration.

The administration's discussion of Wilson's link to the CIA was meant to undermine criticism by her husband of the administration's allegations that Iraq attempted to acquire uranium — a matter that her husband had probed for the CIA, according to testimony presented in a 2007 trial.

A list of at least seven related conversations involving Cheney appears in a new court filing approved by Obama appointees at the Justice Department.

In the filing, the officials argue that the substance of what Cheney told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in 2004 must remain secret.

No such agreement was reached between Fitzgerald and Cheney at the time of their chat, according to a 2008 letter from Fitzgerald to lawmakers.

But the Bush administration had rejected requests by Congress and a nonprofit group for access to two FBI accounts of the conversation, saying the material was exempt from disclosure under subpoena or the Freedom of Information Act.

The Obama administration has since agreed that the material should not be disclosed.

A general list of what Cheney and Fitzgerald discussed appears in a declaration to the court by Acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron, who oversees the department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Barron mentioned in particular Cheney's discussion of his conversation with then-CIA Director George Tenet about "the decision to send Ambassador Joseph Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger in 2002."

Wilson is the former CIA operative's husband, and a report he filed after the trip cast doubt on claims that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapons program.

President George W. Bush cited those claims as part of the justification for the Iraq war.

Barron also listed as exempt from disclosure:

• Cheney's account of requests for CIA information about the purported purchase;

• Cheney's discussions with top officials about the controversy over Bush's mention of the uranium allegations in his 2003 State of the Union speech;

• and Cheney's discussions with deputy I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, press spokesman Ari Fleischer, and Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. "regarding the appropriate response to media inquiries about the source of the disclosure" of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity.

New evidence shows Cheney swayed CIA leak response 07/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 3, 2009 11:36pm]

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