Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who's been indicted in the CIA leak investigation, testified that his "superiors" authorized him to leak classified information to reporters.
It's a clear arrow pointing to the vice president, CBS News political analyst Gloria Borger reports Thursday.
According to recently filed court documents, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wrote Libby's attorneys a letter in which he noted that, at the grand jury, "Mr. Libby testified he was authorized to disclose information about the National Intelligence Estimate to the press by his superiors" and he did that, in June and July 2003.
Parts of that document, which detailed Iraq's nuclear weapons capabilities, were later declassified.
"Whatever else this means, it means an even more complicated prosecution of Lewis Libby because it either requires the government to disclose sensitive information to the defense team," CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen says.
Thursday's National Journal reports that Libby will point out that the vice president and other top administration officials encouraged him to share classified information as part of a strategy to build a defense for the war.
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.
Fitzgerald, when he first announced the charges last year, portrayed Libby as the first high-level government official to reveal Plame's identity to reporters.
While the vice president has been interviewed by the special prosecutor, no one knows his testimony. The vice president's office declined any comment Thursday.
"If these allegations by his former assistant are true, it certainly won't help the vice president politically, Cohen adds. "And it clearly will make it harder for the White House to separate itself now from Libby. But it's still an open question about whether it hurts Dick Cheney legally. Only the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, knows the answer to that question."
Libby's lawyers say they will not raise the defense based on any of the Libby's superiors, Borger adds. But even so, the news Thursday that Libby was given permission from his bosses to leak classified information is an embarrassment, particularly for an administration that prides itself on keeping secrets.