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White House leak scandal started with a blond spy


White House leak scandal
started with a blond spy

Somebody blabbed her name & the President's men could pay

By JAMES GORDON MEEK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

The clock is ticking down today on a two-year investigation into what originally looked like another run-of-the-mill Washington leak.
A blond spy, Valerie Plame, was unmasked in an apparent act of revenge by an angry White House after Plame's husband criticized intelligence offered as justification for the Iraq war.

But that leak has turned into a torrent of speculation about criminal indictments that could reach deep into the White House.

Here's your guide to the complicated case.

Q What crime was allegedly committed?

A It's a felony to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover U.S. intelligence officer. On July 14, 2003, columnist Robert Novak reported "two senior administration officials" had told him Plame was the CIA agent who dispatched her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons.

Q Why is this important?

A Wilson later criticized President Bush for using the debunked Niger claim to sell the war in Iraq. Democrats charge the Bush administration punished Wilson by outing his CIA wife, essentially ending her career as a covert agent. Wilson allies also say the exposure may have put her at risk along with her clandestine sources.

Q Who is most likely to fall?

A The smart money says Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, who could face perjury or obstruction-of-justice charges for allegedly trying to cover up his role in identifying Plame. Bush political guru Karl Rove is said to be in the same hot water. Other names frequently mentioned are former Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer and senior Cheney aide John Hannah.

Q Does President Bush have a problem?

A Potentially big time - but certainly not a legal one. If senior aides to the President and vice president are indicted, Bush will have a serious scandal on his hands - and his platter is already overloaded with political problems. If there are no indictments, he can start digging out from the lowest poll numbers of his term.

Q What about Vice President Cheney?

A A Libby indictment would be a serious embarrassment for Cheney, who has been his chief of staff's patron for years. They are joined at the hip and spend hours together every day. Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Libby's notes say he learned Plame's name from the veep - weeks before she was outed.

Q Will anybody go to prison?

A The New York Times reporter Judy Miller, who did some reporting on the Plame story but never wrote anything about it, served 85 days for contempt of court for refusing to identify Libby as her source. But the high-profile targets of the probe, if indicted and convicted, probably would spend little, if any, time behind bars, because of inevitable plea bargaining.

Q Are indictments inevitable?

A No. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald could decide no crime was committed or that he doesn't have enough evidence to prove a crime in court. In that case, he would close his shop without issuing any report.

Q When will we know something?

A The federal grand jury, a panel of ordinary citizens, meets for the last time tomorrow. But their term could be extended.

Q What would an extension mean?

A It would probably mean Fitzgerald has broadened his probe and is considering more charges.

With Thomas M. DeFrank and Kenneth R. Bazinet
LINK TO ORIGINAL

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