What Cheney told Libby

According to a new report, the vice president directed his now-indicted aide to dish classified information to reporters to bolster support for the war.

Published February 9, 2006 8:57PM (EST)

In a recent letter to lawyers for Scooter Libby, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicated that Libby testified before the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame case that his "superiors" had authorized him to give reporters information about a classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq during the summer of 2003.

Journalist Murray Waas has just advanced the ball on that story. In a report in the National Journal, Waas says that at least one of the "superiors" who authorized the NIE leaks was Vice President Dick Cheney.

It's not a huge surprise -- Libby was sufficiently high up that he didn't have a whole lot of other "superiors" -- and it's not the whole enchilada: Libby hasn't said, and neither does Waas, that Cheney encouraged Libby to leak Plame's identity. Still, Waas' report is important for a couple of reasons. It underscores the depth of Cheney's role in using intelligence information to build public support for the war in Iraq. And, as Waas explains, it raises questions about the motives that may have driven Libby to lie to federal investigators and to Fitzgerald's grand jury: Was he protecting himself, or was he covering the tracks of his "superior"?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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