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Secrecy Order in CIA Leak Case Challenged by Media
Washington - A major U.S. media organization on Monday challenged efforts by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to keep documents secret in the CIA leak case that involved the Bush administration.
Dow Jones & Co, which publishes The Wall Street Journal and other publications, filed court papers asking Judge Reggie Walton to deny a sweeping motion by Fitzgerald that would bar public disclosure of documents in the case.
The proposed protective order, which was agreed to by Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, would cover grand jury transcripts, witness statements and a wide range of other documents involved in the case. Any leaks could result in civil and criminal fines, the order warns.
"Dow Jones has a substantial interest in ensuring timely access to information of importance to its readers and the general public," Dow Jones said in its motion. "That interest is particularly strong in a case like this one, which concerns a matter of great national importance."
Libby was charged on Oct 28 with obstructing justice, perjury and lying in the two-year investigation into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity after her husband criticized the Iraq war.
Libby, who resigned after he was indicted, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have promised to mount a vigorous defense.
Lawyers involved in the case said other media organizations could join Dow Jones in challenging Fitzgerald's proposed order, which was accepted by Libby.
Fitzgerald's office declined to comment.
Walton has set Libby's next court appearance for February 3. But the case could get bogged down for months in a fight over classified documents underpinning the criminal charges.
President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not indicted along with Libby. But lawyers involved in the case said Rove remained under investigation and may still be charged.