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Libby team may focus on prewar intelligence

Associated Press
Published March 19, 2006

WASHINGTON - Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide are signaling that, at his criminal trial, they might delve into infighting among the White House, the CIA and the State Department over pre-Iraq war intelligence failures.

In a prelude to a possible defense, the lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby also are suggesting that the State Department - not Libby - may be to blame for leaking the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media.

In court papers filed Friday, the defense team claims that in June and July 2003, Plame's CIA status was at most a peripheral issue to "the finger-pointing that went on within the executive branch about who was to blame" for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"If the jury learns this background information" about finger-pointing "and also understands Mr. Libby's additional focus on urgent national security matters, the jury will more easily appreciate how Mr. Libby may have forgotten or misremembered . . . snippets of conversation" about Plame's CIA status, the lawyers said.

Libby was indicted charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI about how he learned of Plame's CIA employment and what he told reporters.

Libby's lawyers are asking U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton for access to government documents about a 2002 trip that Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, made to the African nation of Niger at the CIA's behest.

The defense says the documents will demonstrate the White House made no concerted effort to punish Wilson by leaking his wife's identity, as critics have claimed.

[Last modified March 19, 2006, 01:08:10]

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