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White House turns aside questions about Cheney

Associated Press
Published October 26, 2005

WASHINGTON - The White House on Tuesday sidestepped questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney passed on to his top aide the identity of a CIA officer central to a federal grand jury probe.

Notes in the hands of a federal prosecutor suggest that Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, first heard of the CIA officer from Cheney himself, the New York Times reported in Tuesday's editions.

A federal prosecutor is investigating whether the officer's identity was improperly disclosed.

The New York Times reported that notes of a previously undisclosed June 12, 2003, conversation between Libby and Cheney appear to differ from Libby's grand jury testimony that he first heard of Valerie Plame from journalists.

"This is a question relating to an ongoing investigation and we're not having any further comment on the investigation while it's ongoing," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

McClellan said Cheney - who participated in a morning video conference on the Florida hurricane from Wyoming, where he was to speak at a University of Wyoming dinner Tuesday night - is doing a "great job" as vice president. The spokesman also said Cheney's public comments have always been truthful.

Libby has emerged at the center of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's criminal investigation in recent weeks because of the Cheney aide's conversations about Plame with New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

Miller said Libby spoke to her about Plame and her husband, Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, on three occasions - although not necessarily by name and without indicating he knew she was undercover.

Libby's notes indicate Cheney knew Plame worked at the CIA more than a month before her identity was publicly exposed by columnist Robert Novak.

The New York Times reported that Libby's notes indicate Cheney got his information about Wilson from then-CIA director George Tenet, but said there was no indication he knew her name.

Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, did not return phone calls and e-mail to his office.

[Last modified October 26, 2005, 00:46:05]

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