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Ex-VP Aide Seeks Secret Evidence Use

I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, center, leaves the U.S. District Court, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005, in Washington.
AP
Lawyers for a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday made their first request to use classified evidence at his trial, launching a highly secretive court process that could bog down the case.

In the filings made under seal in federal court, lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby put the judge and prosecutors on notice that they want a jury to hear evidence the government now says is classified.

Their action puts the Libby case on a dual track — one public, the other secret — that often can delay criminal cases from going to trial.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted last year on charges that he lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity and when he subsequently told reporters.

Plame's identity was revealed in July 2003 by columnist Robert Novak after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium "yellowcake" in Niger. The year before, the CIA had sent Wilson to Africa to determine the accuracy of the uranium reports.

Although the specifics of Monday's filing remain secret, Libby's defense team hinted in a court document last Friday that they will want to disclose to a jury the nature of Plame's work as a CIA operative.

Libby's lawyers said Plame's now-classified duties are among the "significant disagreements" they have with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, an issue they believe is "material" to the defense's case.

Fights over classified information repeatedly delayed the case against acknowledged al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Moussaoui, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, faces a trial next month where a jury will decide whether the French citizen should be executed.

In Libby's case, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton will decide what will be presented to a jury and in what form. In such cases, compromises can be worked out where secret information is presented in summaries to a jury.