The Prosecutor Zeroes In
By Dan Froomkin  ◊ Special to washingtonpost.com

Tuesday, Oct. 18 — Could the CIA leak investigation turn into an accountability moment for the Bush administration and the way it handled intelligence before and after taking the country to war?

Jim VandeHei and Walter Pincus write in The Washington Post: “As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent’s name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney’s office, according to lawyers familiar with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that suggests Cheney’s long-standing tensions with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame. . . .

AP/Eugene Hoshiko

“In the course of the investigation, Fitzgerald has been exposed to the intense, behind-the-scenes fight between Cheney’s office and the CIA over prewar intelligence and the vice president’s central role in compiling and then defending the intelligence used to justify the war …

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“Before the war, he traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings, an unusual move that some critics interpreted as an effort to pressure intelligence officials into supporting his view of the evidence. After the war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on faulty information to justify war, Cheney and [Chief of Staff I. Lewis ‘Scooter’] Libby were central to the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.”

Tom Raum writes for the Associated Press: “Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s CIA-leak inquiry is focusing attention on what long has been a Bush White House tactic: slash-and-burn assaults on its critics, particularly those opposed to the president’s Iraq war policies.

“If top officials are indicted, it could seriously erode the administration’s credibility and prove yet another embarrassment to President Bush on the larger issue of how he and his national security team marshaled information — much of it later shown to be inaccurate — to support their case for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.”

James Gordon Meek, Thomas M. DeFrank and Kenneth R. Bazinet write in the New York Daily News: “Cheney’s name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge – with help from a secret snitch.

” ‘They have got a senior cooperating witness – someone who is giving them all of that,’ a source who has been questioned in the leak probe told the Daily News yesterday.

“Cheney was questioned last year by prosecutors and has hired a private attorney, former colleague Terrence O’Donnell, who declined to comment when contacted by The News.

“Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride only offered the standard canned response that her boss is cooperating.”

[Minor edits, bold emphasis and links added – Oui]

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