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Report: Lawyers say investigation into CIA leak widens to probe 'broader conspiracy' around Iraq


Filed by RAW STORY

There are signs that prosecutors now are looking into contacts between administration officials and journalists that took place much earlier than previously thought, the Wall Street Journal will report Wednesday, RAW STORY can reveal. Excerpts from the coming story:

Earlier conversations are potentially significant, because that suggests the special prosecutor leading the investigation is exploring whether there was an effort within the administration at an early stage to develop and disseminate confidential information to the press that could undercut former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame.

Mr. Wilson had become a thorn in the Bush administration's side, as he sought to undermine the administration's claims that Iraq had sought to buy materials for building nuclear weapons from other countries, such as uranium "yellowcake" from Niger. Ultimately, his wife's name and identity were disclosed in a newspaper column, prompting the investigation into whether someone in the administration broke the law by revealing the identity of an undercover agent.

Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy.

Mr. Wilson's initial complaints were made privately to reporters. He went public in a July 6 op-ed in the New York Times and in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." After that, White House officials, who were attempting to discredit Mr. Wilson's claims, confirmed to some reporters that Mr. Wilson was married to a CIA official. Columnist Robert Novak published Mr. Wilson's wife's name and association with the agency in a column that suggested she had played a role in having him sent on a mission to Niger to investigate the administration's claims.

Until now, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to be focusing on conversations between White House officials such as Mr. Libby and Karl Rove, President Bush's senior political adviser, after Mr. Wilson wrote his op-ed. The defense by Republican operatives has been that White House officials didn't name Ms. Plame, and that any discussion of her was in response to reporters' questions about Mr. Wilson, the kind of casual banter that occurs between sources and reporters.

Mr. Rove, who has already testified three times before the grand jury and was identified by a Time magazine reporter as a source for his story on Mr. Wilson, is expected to go back to the grand jury, potentially as early as today, to clarify earlier answers.

Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims.

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