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Libby: Bush OK'd Secret Intel Leak

Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide told prosecutors that President Bush authorized the leak of sensitive intelligence information about Iraq, according to court papers filed by prosecutors in the CIA leak case.

Before his indictment, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified to the grand jury investigating the CIA leak that Cheney told him to pass on information — and that it was Mr. Bush who authorized the disclosure, the court papers say.

According to the documents, the authorization led to the July 8, 2003, conversation between Libby and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

In the past, Mr. Bush has denounced leaking to the media. For instance, in September 2003 during a speech in Chicago, Mr. Bush said of the Libby investigation, "Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks.

"And if there is a leak out of my administration," Mr. Bush said, "I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

And last December, Mr. Bush denounced leaks to the New York Times regarding his domestic wiretap program.

"It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy," he said.

There was no indication in the filing that either Mr. Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame's CIA identity.

But the disclosure in documents filed Wednesday means that the president and the vice president put Libby in play as a secret provider of information to reporters about prewar intelligence on Iraq.

The authorization came as the Bush administration faced mounting criticism about its failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — the main reason the president and his aides had given for going to war.

CBS News' Beverley Lumpkin explains that while it is "well within the power of the president (and arguably the vice president as well) to declassify a government document unilaterally … this is not only embarrassing to the president and vice president in tying them to the dirty business. It's also very damaging to Scooter Libby's defense strategy that he was so busy he couldn't possibly have remembered knowing about Wilson and his wife."

At a press conference this afternoon, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that "the more we hear, the more it is clear that this case goes beyond Scooter Libby." Schumer said he has written a letter to Mr. Bush asking him whether he, as president, had the authority to leak classified information. Schumer also inquired whether Mr. Bush or one of his own "directed anyone else to direct classified information to reporters."

According to interviews with the National Journal, two senior government officials in recent days said Libby has also asserted that Cheney authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq. In some instances, the information leaked was directly discussed with the Vice President, while in other instances Libby believed he had broad authority to release information that would make the case to go to war.

In yet another instance, the Journal reported that Libby had claimed President Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack," a book written by Woodward about the run-up to the Iraqi war.

Read the official court documents.

Libby's participation in a critical conversation with Miller on July 8, 2003, "occurred only after the vice president advised defendant that the president specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the National Intelligence Estimate," the papers by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald stated. The filing did not specify the "certain information."

"Defendant testified that the circumstances of his conversation with reporter Miller, getting approval from the president through the vice president to discuss material that would be classified but for that approval, were unique in his recollection," the papers added.

Libby is asking for voluminous amounts of classified information from the government in order to defend himself against five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI in the Plame affair.

He is accused of making false statements about how he learned of Plame's CIA employment and what he told reporters about it.

Her CIA status was publicly disclosed eight days after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction.

In 2002, Wilson had been dispatched to Africa by the CIA to check out intelligence that Iraq had an agreement to acquire uranium yellowcake from Niger, and Wilson had concluded that there was no such arrangement.

Libby says he needs extensive classified files from the government to demonstrate that Plame's CIA connection was a peripheral matter that he never focused on, and that the role of Wilson's wife was a small piece in a building public controversy over the failure to find WMD in Iraq.

Fitzgerald said in the new court filing that Libby's requests for information go too far and the prosecutor cited Libby's own statements to investigators in an attempt to limit the amount of information the government must turn over to Cheney's former chief of staff for his criminal defense.

According to Miller's grand jury testimony, Libby told her about Plame's CIA status in the July 8, 2003, conversation that took place shortly after the White House aide, according to the new court filing, was authorized by Mr. Bush through Cheney to disclose sensitive intelligence about Iraq and WMD contained in a National Intelligence Estimate.

The court filing was first disclosed by The New York Sun.