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No Final Report Seen in Inquiry on C.I.A. Leak
October 19, 2005
New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON
and RICHARD W. STEVENSON
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 - The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.
The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is not expected to take any action in the case this week, government officials said. A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.
A final report had long been considered an option for Mr. Fitzgerald if he decided not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, although Justice Department officials have been dubious about his legal authority to issue such a report.
By signaling that he had no plans to issue the grand jury's findings in such detail, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to narrow his options either to indictments or closing his investigation with no public disclosure of his findings, a choice that would set off a political firestorm.
With the term of the grand jury expiring Oct. 28, lawyers in the case said they assumed Mr. Fitzgerald was in the final stages of his inquiry.
The focus of Mr. Fitzgerald's inquiry has remained fixed on two senior White House aides, Karl Rove, who is President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., who is Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Both had conversations with reporters about a C.I.A. officer whose name was later publicly disclosed.
It is not clear whether Mr. Fitzgerald has learned who first identified the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, to the syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak in July 2003.
Some of the lawyers in the case say Mr. Fitzgerald seems to be wrestling with decisions about how to proceed, leaning toward indictments but continuing to weigh thousands of pages of documents and testimony he has compiled during the nearly two-year inquiry.
In recent days, Mr. Fitzgerald has repeatedly told lawyers in the case that he has not made up his mind about criminal charges.
Mr. Fitzgerald has been investigating whether administration officials deliberately disclosed Ms. Wilson's identity - she is also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame - in response to criticism by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, of the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs before the invasion.
Some lawyers in the case had expressed hope that a final report would provide Mr. Fitzgerald with a vehicle to disclose his investigative findings even if he absolved everyone of wrongdoing. Democrats in Congress had also expressed a desire for such a report, apparently hoping it would offer fresh details about the administration's actions.
Any decision will be announced in Washington and not in Chicago, where Mr. Fitzgerald is the United States attorney, Justice Department officials said.
In his daily news briefing, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday that a successful completion to the inquiry would be one in which Mr. Fitzgerald would "determine the facts and then outline those facts for the American people."
Asked if that meant the White House would favor a public report if there were no indictments, Mr. McClellan said that the decision was Mr. Fitzgerald's, but that "we would all like to know what the facts are."
Such a report could not only show where evidence failed to result in criminal charges, but also make recommendations for changes in law, disciplinary actions or criticize the conduct of public officials whose actions did not rise to the level of criminal behavior.
Given the political ramifications attached to Mr. Fitzgerald's decisions, officials at the White House have begun discussing what would happen if Mr. Rove was indicted.
Among the names being discussed to take some of Mr. Rove's responsibilities should he have to step aside, an outside adviser to the White House said, are Dan Bartlett, currently Mr. Bush's counselor; Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee; and Robert M. Kimmitt, the deputy Treasury secretary.
Under Justice Department regulations, it is not clear whether Mr. Fitzgerald has the authority to issue a final report, even if he wanted to, although he has operated under a broad delegation of authority, issued in a pair of letters by James B. Comey, the former deputy attorney general. Those directives gave Mr. Fitzgerald virtually the same power as the attorney general to conduct criminal inquiries.
But even the attorney general is restricted in what information he can release publicly or present to Congress when it has been obtained, as Mr. Fitzgerald has gathered it, through extensive use of a grand jury, whose proceedings are secret. Even so, some lawyers have argued that Mr. Fitzgerald could issue such a report and have said there is general authority to report his findings if they are requested by Congress.
Without a report, it seems likely that questions about the case may remain unanswered and that a complete account of the administration's activities may never be known, including the details of testimony by the scores of administration officials who were interviewed in the inquiry.
The likelihood that crucial details might be kept secret would be increased if Mr. Fitzgerald brought charges that were narrowly focused on perjury, false statement or obstruction of justice counts involving misstatements by officials in their testimony. But he has also examined broader potential violations, among them whether there was an illegal effort, directed by senior officials, to disclose Ms. Wilson's identity.
Officials who testified or were questioned by investigators also included John Hannah, Mr. Cheney's principal deputy national security adviser.