Aides To Be Indicted, Probe to Continue
By Richard Sale, long-time Intelligence Correspondent
Two top White House aides are expected to be indicted today on various charges related to the probe of CIA operative Valerie Plame whose classified identity was publicly breached in retaliation after her husband, Joe Wilson, challenged the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy enriched unranium from Niger, acording to federal law enforcement and senior U.S. intelligence officials.
If no action is taken today, it will take place on Friday, these sources said.
I.Scooter Libby, the chief of staff of Vice President Richard Cheney, and chief presidential advisor, Karl Rove are expected to be named in indcitments this morning by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
Others are to be named as well, these source said. According to U.S. officials close to the case an bill of indiictment has been in existence before October 17 which named five people. Various names have surfaced such a National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, yet only one source would confirm that Hadley was on the list. Hadley could not be reached for comment.
But letters from Fitzgerald, notifying various White House officiials that they are targets of the invstigation, went out late last week, a former senior U.S. intelligence official said.
Although most press accounts emphasized that Fitzgerald was likely to concentrate on attempts by Libby Rove and others to cover-up wrongdoing by means of perjury before the grand jury, lying to federal officials, conspiring to obstruct justice, etc. But federal law enforcement officials told this reporter that Fitzgerald was likely to charge the people indicted with violating Joe Wilson's civil rights, smearing his name in an attempt to destroy his ability to earn a living in Washington as a consultant.
The civil rights charge is said to include "the conspiracy was committed using U.S. government offices, buildings, personnel and funds," one federal law enforcement official said.
Other charges could include possible violations of U.S. espionage laws, including the mishandling of U.S. classified information, these sources said.
That Vice President Cheney is at the center of the controversy comes is no surprise. Last Friday, Fitzgerald investigators were talking to Cheney's attorneys, and detailied questionaires, designed to pin down in meticulous sequence what Cheney knew, when he knew it, and what he told his aides,, were delivered to the White House on Monday, these sources said.
The probe is far from being at an end. According to this reporter's sources, Fitzgerald approached the judge in charge of the case and asked that a new grand jury be empaneled. The old grand jury, which has been sitting for two years, will expire on October 28.
Thanks to a letter of February, 2004 which Fitzgerald asked for and obtained expaneed authority, the Special Prosecutor is now in possession of an Italian parliament nvestigationi into the forged Niger documents alleging Iraq's interest in purchasing Niger uranium, sources said.
They said that Fitzgerald is looking into such individuals as former CIA agent, Duane Claridge, military consultant to the Iraqi National Congress, Gen. Wayne Downing, another military consultant for INC, and Francis Brooke, head of INC's Washingfton office in an effort to determine if they played any role in the forgeriese or their dissiemination. Also iIncluded in this group is long-time neoconservative Michael Ledeen, these federal sources said.
On the Hill, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), democratic whip, are asking for public hearings to lay bare the forgeries and how their false allegations ended up in President George Bush's State of the Union speech.
(Part Two -- More on the Forgeries and Wilson's mission.)