Libby prosecutor urges judge to reject bid for presidential briefings
Says effort designed to thwart case
WASHINGTON -- Granting a former White House aide's demands for classified documents to help his defense in the CIA leak investigation would torpedo the case, the prosecutor is arguing.
The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, suggested that lawyers for I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby were trying to thwart the government's case by pressing for the documents, including nearly a year's worth of the Presidential Daily Brief, a summary of threats to the United States that the Bush administration has fiercely guarded in the past.
In court papers filed late Thursday, Fitzgerald also asserted that granting such a request would damage national security and presidential executive privilege. He called it ''nothing short of breathtaking."
''The defendant's effort to make history . . . is a transparent effort at 'greymail,' " he said, referring to past attempts by government officials charged with wrongdoing to derail their prosecutions by trying to expose national security secrets.
Libby, 55, was indicted last year on charges that he lied about how he learned the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and when he subsequently told reporters. Libby's trial is set for January 2007.
Libby's lawyers have said they need the briefings prepared for President Bush to show that Libby had more pressing matters on his mind than the disclosure of Plame Wilson's identity. The documents will show Libby ''was immersed throughout the relevant period in urgent and sensitive matters," the defense said in court papers.
In a 32-page response to Libby's requests, Fitzgerald said he already has turned over more than 11,000 pages of classified and unclassified evidence to the defense -- more than required under law.
But the defense also is seeking access to every Presidential Daily Brief from May 2003 to March 2004, amounting to 277 intelligence reports.
The prosecutor quoted Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby's former boss, as describing the briefings as the ''family jewels" of government, and warned US District Judge Reggie B. Walton that turning over such materials would provoke a lengthy legal battle.
At the beginning of the Bush administration, access to the daily briefing was reduced within the government to reduce the risk of leaks.
The White House publicly released selected briefings only under great pressure and careful negotiation with the commission investigating the government's performance surrounding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The administration has argued that releasing daily intelligence memos could hamper future presidents' ability to get candid advice.
Libby is also seeking access to more information about news reporters connected to the case and records about Plame Wilson kept by the CIA, including any assessments of damage to national security by the public disclosure of the operative's identity.
Fitzgerald said he does not have to prove that the disclosure damaged national security to secure a conviction of Libby for perjury, false statements, and obstruction of justice.
He also said he is not required to search every government agency's files for evidence that might help Libby's defense.