The White House turned over last week 250 pages of emails from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office senior aides had sent in the spring of 2003 related to the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald revealed during a federal court hearing Friday.
The emails are said to be explosive, and may prove that Cheney played an active role in the effort to discredit Plame Wilson’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s prewar Iraq intelligence, sources close to the investigation said.
Sources close to the probe said the White House “discovered” the emails two weeks ago and turned them over to Fitzgerald last week. The sources added that the emails could prove that Cheney lied to FBI investigators when he was interviewed about the leak in early 2004. Cheney said that he was unaware of any effort to discredit Wilson or unmask his wife’s undercover status to reporters.
Cheney was not under oath when he was interviewed. He told investigators how the White House came to rely on Niger documents that purportedly showed that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country.
Cheney said he had received an intelligence briefing on the allegations in late December 2003 or early January 2004 and had asked the CIA for more information about the issue.
Cheney said he was unaware that Ambassador Wilson was chosen to travel to Niger to look into the uranium claims and that he never saw a report Wilson had given a CIA analyst upon his return, which stated that the Niger claims were untrue. He said the CIA never told him about Wilson’s trip.
However, the emails say otherwise, and will show that the vice president spearheaded an effort in March 2003 to attack Wilson’s credibility and used the CIA to dig up information on the former ambassador that could be used against him, sources said.
Some of the emails that were turned over to Fitzgerald contained references to Plame Wilson’s identity and CIA status and developments related to the inability of ground forces to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the start of the war in March 2003.
According to sources, the emails also contained suggestions by senior officials in Cheney’s office and at the National Security Council on how the White House should respond to what it believed were increasingly destructive comments Wilson had been making about the administration’s pre-war Iraq intelligence.
Last month, Fitzgerald disclosed in court documents that he discovered from witnesses in the case that some emails related to Wilson and his wife written by senior aides in Cheney’s office and sent to other officials at the National Security Council had not been turned over to investigators by the White House.
“In an abundance of caution,” Fitzgerald’s January 23 letter to Libby’s defense team states, “we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system.”
Sources close to the case said that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales withheld numerous emails from Fitzgerald’s probe citing “executive privilege” and “national security” concerns. These sources said that as of Friday there are still some emails that have not been turned over to Fitzgerald because it contains classified information in addition to references about the Wilson’s.
Attorneys representing Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators related to his role in the leak, were in court Friday arguing that Fitzgerald should be required to turn over classified material, including highly sensitive Presidential Daily Briefs, to Libby’s defense team.
The defense hopes that the classified materials will establish that Libby was dealing with more pressing matters facing the White House and that he simply did not intend to mislead the grand jury when he testified that he did not disclose Plame Wilson’s name to reporters.
In another development in the leak case Friday, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said another administration official who does not work at the White House also spoke to reporters about Plame Wilson. This individual, according to sources close to the case, works at the National Security Council.
Walton said that Libby’s defense team was not entitled to be told of the individual’s identity because the person is not charged with a crime in the leak. However, the person is said to be one of several people in the administration who is cooperating with the probe.
JASON LEOPOLD is the author of the explosive NEWS JUNKIE, to be published in April on Process/Feral House books.
This article first appeared on TruthOut