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Context of 'March 10, 2006: Judge Compels CIA to Give Libby Lawyers Classified Briefings'

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The law firm of Jones Day submits the first classified document request to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald on behalf of its client, Lewis Libby. The letter reads in part, “The documents requested include not only documents in the possession, custody, or control of your office, but also (a) documents in the possession, custody, or control of any agency allied with the prosecution, including without limitation the FBI, CIA, and the Office of the Vice President (‘OVP’), and (b) all other documents of which your office has knowledge and to which it has access.” The request is for, among other documents, Libby’s White House notes from May 2003 through March 2004; all documents pertaining to Libby’s morning intelligence briefings from May 2003 through March 2004, and including all Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs); any CIA damage assessment performed in light of the Plame Wilson identity leak; and any documents pertaining to Valerie Plame Wilson’s status as a clandestine CIA official. (Letter to Patrick Fitzgerald from Jones Day re United States v. I. Lewis Libby 12/14/2005, pp. 2-5 pdf file) None of the lawyers for either the prosecution or the defense are aware of an in-house CIA assessment of the “severe” damage caused by the leak (see Before September 16, 2003).

The CIA refuses to release a raft of classified agency documents requested by the Lewis Libby defense team (see January 31, 2006 and February 27, 2006). Meeting the Libby team’s request, CIA spokeswoman Marilyn Dorn says in a court filing, would “impose an enormous burden” and divert CIA analysts from more important tasks. To compile and provide those documents, Dorn says, would take around nine months. Libby’s lawyers say the CIA is exaggerating the difficulty of finding and releasing the documents, calling the argument “astonishing,” but also scale back their requests in hopes that Judge Reggie Walton will compel the agency to comply with the document demands. Some of the information originally requested includes CIA copies of the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs) from an 11-month period in 2003 and 2004. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has accused the Libby team of engaging in “graymail” (see (February 16, 2006)), demanding unobtainable classified government documents in order to shut down the prosecution. Libby’s team has called that accusation “not only false but insulting” (see February 6, 2006). Libby’s lawyers now say they will be satisfied with the PDBs provided to Vice President Dick Cheney. (US District Court for the District of Columbia 3/2/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the District of Columbia 3/7/2006 pdf file; Smith 3/8/2006)

Judge Reggie Walton orders the CIA to turn over some of the highly classified intelligence briefings to the Lewis Libby defense team that it has requested (see March 2-7, 2006). Walton rejects CIA arguments that disclosure of the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs) would be detrimental to national security. He says the agency can either delete highly classified material from the briefings, or provide “topic overviews” of the matters covered in them. “It is unlikely that this court would permit anything other than the general topic areas of these documents to be introduced at trial,” he writes. “The defendant does not need the explicit details of the intelligence documents he desires to obtain. The general topics of the documents would provide the defendant exactly the information he seeks, listings of the pressing matters presented to him during the times relevant to the case.” Walton only grants 46 days’ worth of the PDBs, instead of the nine months’ worth the defense had originally asked for (see December 14, 2005). He also orders the CIA to give Libby an index of the topics covered in follow-up questions that the former White House aide asked intelligence officers who conducted the briefings. (Locy 3/10/2006; US District Court for the District of Columbia 3/10/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the District of Columbia 3/10/2006 pdf file; Lewis 3/11/2006) Criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt writes: “These documents most likely will never be seen by us or the jury. They are to assist Libby with refreshing his memory.” (Jeralyn Merritt 3/10/2006)

The Libby defense team files a motion asking the court to disallow the prosecution to present classified information to Judge Reggie Walton without the defense’s presence. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald intends to argue that certain classified information is not pertinent to the defense of accused perjurer Lewis Libby, and wants to share that information with Walton, but not with Libby’s lawyers. Fitzgerald has argued that the information must be kept secret in order to protect national security, an argument that Libby’s lawyers say “rings hollow.” They tout Libby, who leaked classified information to reporters (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), as someone who “has diligently protected some of this country’s most sensitive secrets throughout his many years of public service.” Fitzgerald has noted that an underlying criminal charge against Libby is the failure to adequately safeguard sensitive classified information. Walton has already ordered the government to turn over some classified information to the defense (see March 10, 2006). (Yost 3/15/2006; US District Court for the District of Columbia 3/15/2006 pdf file) Former state prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith observes that Libby has already violated his nondisclosure agreement against revealing classified information, and writes: “By breaking the law and releasing sensitive national security information, Scooter Libby forfeited his privilege of clearance—any presumption that he had the integrity to protect the nation’s secrets is gone. He is being treated like any other defendant in this situation—and who he worked for and how high his friends go in the government ought not matter one whit.” (Christy Hardin Smith 3/16/2006)

Lawyers for indicted former White House official Lewis Libby file a third motion to compel the release of a wide swath of classified documents that they say are needed for Libby’s trial defense. The defense team wants far more documents than previously granted them by Judge Reggie Walton (see March 10, 2006). Most of the documents requested are similar to those requested in earlier filings (see December 14, 2005 and March 15, 2006). (US District Court for the District of Columbia 3/17/2006 pdf file)

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald responds to the Lewis Libby defense team’s third motion to compel the discovery of a huge number of classified documents (see March 17, 2006), including Presidential Daily Briefings, the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see October 1, 2002), and a raft of CIA documents. Judge Reggie Walton has already allowed the discovery of some of the requested documents (see March 10, 2006). Fitzgerald writes that Libby is seeking “nearly every document generated by four large executive branch entities relating to Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger” (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), and notes that such a request is overly broad, unnecessary for a perjury defense, and relies on an incorrect reading of the law. The request, Fitzgerald writes, “is premised on relevance arguments which overlook the fact that defendant is charged with perjury, not a conspiracy to commit various other crimes.” Hence the requsted documents go “far beyond the scope of what is relevant to the charges contained in the indictment.” (US District Court for the District of Columbia 4/5/2006 pdf file; New York Sun 4/7/2006)

Lewis Libby’s lawyers file a supplemental brief extending and reiterating their arguments in favor of compelling the CIA, the White House, and other government agencies to submit a vast array of classified documents for Libby’s defense (see December 14, 2005, January 9, 2006, January 23, 2006, January 31, 2006, (February 16, 2006), February 21, 2006, February 24, 2006, February 27, 2006, March 1, 2006, March 2-7, 2006, March 10, 2006, March 17, 2006, and April 5, 2006). The defense indicates it intends to call as witnesses the following government officials: former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, and former CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson. To fairly prepare for their testimonies, the defense argues, it must be supplied with all pertinent documents, classified or not, relating to their involvement in the leak of Plame Wilson’s identity, Plame Wilson’s covert status, the White House’s efforts to bolster its arguments for the Iraq invasion, and the White House’s attempts to discredit Wilson as a believable critic of its policies. (US District Court for the District of Columbia 5/12/2006 pdf file)

The CIA provides short summaries of Vice President Dick Cheney’s daily security briefings to defense attorneys for Cheney’s indicted former chief of staff, Lewis Libby. The documents are provided as per a March court order (see March 10, 2006). They have been turned over in batches since May 2006; the final documents have just been turned over. The briefing summaries cover the period in the summer of 2003 when Libby was allegedly discussing Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity with journalists. They also cover several weeks in the fall of 2003 when Libby was questioned by the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003), and March 2004 when Libby testified before a federal grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004). (Associated Press 8/11/2006)

Judge Reggie Walton issues a court order that withholds certain “extremely sensitive” classified documents from the Lewis Libby defense team. Walton writes that he “carefully reviewed” the requests from special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and from the CIA to withhold the documents. The documents were provided to him ex parte and in camera, and Walton determined that they were irrelevant to the Libby defense efforts. Walton writes that the documents are “extremely sensitive and their disclosure could cause serious if not grave damage to the national security of the United States.” Walton has previously allowed other classified documents to be provided to Libby, and the CIA has provided documents requested by Libby that Walton has released to the defense (see December 14, 2005, January 9, 2006, January 20, 2006, January 23, 2006, January 23, 2006, January 31, 2006, (February 16, 2006), February 21, 2006, February 24, 2006. February 27, 2006, March 1, 2006, March 2-7, 2006, March 10, 2006, March 17, 2006, April 5, 2006, May 3, 2006, May 12, 2006, May 19, 2006, and June 2, 2006). Many of the documents provided to Libby are redacted versions or summaries of the classified documents he viewed during his morning intelligence briefings. (Seidman 8/18/2006) Former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith, writing for the progressive blog FireDogLake, writes of Walton’s decision: “That there is material so sensitive in this case that Libby is not entitled to it at all… speaks volumes to me in terms of what was endangered by him and Karl Rove opening their yaps in order to exact some political payback and CYA for Dick Cheney and the Bush administration. Putting personal political fortune ahead of the security of the entire United States during a time of armed conflict to cover your bosses’ *sses for lying the nation into war? Now THAT is unpatriotic.” (Christy Hardin Smith 8/19/2006)

Judge Reggie Walton issues an order on the use of classified evidence in the Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction trial (see December 14, 2005, January 9, 2006, January 23, 2006, January 31, 2006, (February 16, 2006), February 21, 2006, February 24, 2006, February 27, 2006, March 1, 2006, March 2-7, 2006, March 10, 2006, March 17, 2006, April 5, 2006, May 12, 2006, May 19, 2006, June 2, 2006, and August 18, 2006). The order is largely procedural, acknowledging the deep divisions between the prosecution and the defense on the issue, and concluding “that the Federal Rules of Evidence and the restrictions they impose control whether information subject to CIPA [Classified Information Procedures Act] proceedings is admissible during a trial.” The order indicates that Walton is inclined to find at least somewhat in favor of the defense and may order many of the classified materials requested by the Libby defense team to be presented as evidence, leading the Associated Press to report “a victory to the defense” in the ruling. Walton also reminds prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that if his concerns about a possible breach of national security are that strong, he is free to stop the disclosure of classified information by dropping the charges against Libby (see After October 28, 2005, January 31, 2006, February 6, 2006, (February 16, 2006), and September 27, 2006). (US District Court for the District of Columbia 9/21/2006 pdf file; Seidman 9/21/2006; Apuzzo 9/21/2006)

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald files a status report in regards to defense requests for a wide array of classified documents and materials to be made available for the Libby trial (see December 14, 2005, January 9, 2006, January 23, 2006, January 31, 2006, (February 16, 2006), February 21, 2006, February 24, 2006, February 27, 2006, March 1, 2006, March 2-7, 2006, March 10, 2006, March 17, 2006, April 5, 2006, May 12, 2006, May 19, 2006, June 2, 2006, August 18, 2006, September 21, 2006, and September 22, 2006). Fitzgerald’s report indicates that he has presented the defense with redacted versions of many of the documents the lawyers have requested, and that he expects the defense to challenge some of the redactions. (US District Court for the District of Columbia 10/18/2006 pdf file)

Judge Reggie Walton rules that the substitutions and summaries of classified materials special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has proposed to be provided to the Lewis Libby defense team are inadequate. Libby has asked for a raft of classified materials (see December 14, 2005, January 9, 2006, January 20, 2006, January 23, 2006, January 23, 2006, January 31, 2006, (February 16, 2006), February 21, 2006, February 24, 2006, February 27, 2006, March 1, 2006, March 2-7, 2006, March 10, 2006, March 17, 2006, April 5, 2006, May 3, 2006, May 12, 2006, May 19, 2006, June 2, 2006, August 18, 2006, September 21, 2006, and September 22, 2006) to support his contention that he was so overwhelmed by work at the White House that his lies about his conversations with reporters concerning CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, and July 10 or 11, 2003) were “inadvertent and not the product of willful disinformation.” Observers are terming this Libby’s “memory defense” (see January 31, 2006). However, Walton rules that Libby will not have “free reign” to use whatever classified documents he or his lawyers see fit: his ruling “does not give the defendant ‘free reign’ over his testimony.” Walton writes, “He is alleging both that the volume of his work would have impacted his memory and that some of the information presented to him as the vice president’s national security adviser was so potentially catastrophic to the well-being of the country that the focus he had to devote to this information also impacted his memory.” Many observers, including Fitzgerald, believe Libby may be attempting to derail the prosecution by threatening to reveal sensitive national security details during his trial, a practice called “graymail” (see After October 28, 2005, January 31, 2006, February 6, 2006, and (February 16, 2006)). (Seidman 11/13/2006)


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