WASHINGTON -- A former White House aide facing perjury charges will get only a prosecutor's summary of classified documents assessing the damage to national security from the leak of a CIA officer's identity, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
US District Judge Reggie B. Walton also said lawyers for I. Lewis ``Scooter" Libby must settle for a prosecutor's version of information contained in secret government documents that describe CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson's employment history.
Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury about how he learned about Plame Wilson's CIA status and what he subsequently told reporters about her. His trial is scheduled for January.
Walton said Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald convinced him that providing Libby's lawyers with classified documents describing the consequences, if any, of Plame Wilson's outing and her CIA employment history ``could cause serious, if not grave, damage to the national security of the United States."
In a separate order yesterday, Walton reiterated his denial during a hearing last month of Libby's requests for any documents generated by officials in the White House, CIA, and State Department about a trip Plame Wilson's husband, former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson, took at the CIA's request in early 2002 to Niger.
The CIA sought to determine whether there was any truth to reports that Saddam Hussein's government had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Wilson discounted the reports, but the allegation was still made in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak named Plame Wilson in a column on July 14, 2003, eight days after Wilson alleged in an opinion piece in The
During a May 5 court hearing, Theodore Wells, Libby's lawyer, told Walton that he needs government records to show that Libby was not part of a plot to use Plame Wilson to smear the former ambassador for criticizing the administration. Walton said in his order yesterday that Libby is entitled to those documents if they show he was involved in an effort to counter Wilson's charges on the merits. But Walton repeated his desire to prevent Libby's defense team from turning the trial into a debate on the accuracy of Wilson's statements in the op-ed piece, saying what matters is whether Libby lied to a grand jury and the FBI.