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The Nation

Special Prosecutor in CIA Leak Case Sets Up Website

October 22, 2005|Tom Hamburger and Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor rumored to be wrapping up his long-running investigation of the leak of a CIA agent's identity, set up a website this week posting previously filed documents in the case.

Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, "strongly cautions against reading anything into the timing" of the website launch. However, others familiar with the case said the prosecutor probably would not establish an Internet page if his investigation were going to close without indictments.

The case has centered on top White House officials and whether they played a role in the public identification of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame, who is married to former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

Fitzgerald's site, which appeared Wednesday, has an American flag with the words "United States Department of Justice" emblazoned over it. Underneath is the prosecutor's name in large type.

Beneath that are five documents, including the Dec. 30, 2003, letter from acting Atty. Gen. James B. Comey appointing Fitzgerald to investigate the leak and a letter from Comey permitting Fitzgerald to expand his investigation to other possible federal crimes, "such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses."

Fitzgerald's inquiry was launched to find out whether members of the Bush administration leaked Plame's identity; federal law prohibits intentional identification of a covert CIA officer. Her husband had said the Bush administration "twisted" intelligence to justify invading Iraq.

Defense lawyers believe that Fitzgerald might also be considering such charges as making false statements to leak investigators, obstruction of justice and mishandling of classified information.

The case originated in July 2003, when a newspaper published Wilson's Op-Ed column critical of the Bush administration's use of intelligence before the Iraq war.

Wilson told in the column of having been dispatched by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had sought weapons material from Africa, and of having found little evidence to support the claim -- even though President Bush cited the claim in his 2003 State of the Union Address.

A week after Wilson's column appeared, his wife's connection to the CIA was published in a syndicated column by Robert Novak.

At the time, observers believed someone had leaked her identity to undermine Wilson's qualifications for his CIA mission by implying nepotism drove his selection.

Samborn, prosecutor Fitzgerald's spokesman, said he had wanted such a website "for quite some time ... because of the increased volume of calls I am receiving from the press and the public."

The site can be viewed at www.usdoj.gov/usao/iln/osc/index.html.

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