Fitzgerald Focuses on Missing White House Emails
Fitzgerald Focuses on Missing White House Emails
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Friday 03 February 2006
More than two dozen emails sent to various senior Bush administration officials between May 2003 and early July 2003 related to covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, are missing, and the special prosecutor investigating the case suspects that the communications may have been destroyed, according to high level sources close to the two-year old probe.
The sources, who are knowledgeable about Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation and have read hundreds of pages of grand jury testimony, said the emails in question were sent between May and July 2003 by I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, former CIA official Frederick Fleitz, former Cheney aide John Hannah, former Cheney National Security assistant David Wurmser, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
Fitzgerald also suspects that some emails sent to Vice President Cheney by Libby and senior officials at the CIA as well as Libby and Cheney's email replies during this time were not turned over to Fitzgerald's staff.
The sources added that Fitzgerald had learned about the existence of the missing emails during grand jury testimony given by key players in the case, some of whom are now cooperating with the probe in order to avert an indictment for their own roles in the leak.
The emails contained references to Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and CIA status, but did not say that she was an undercover operative of the CIA. Moreover, according to sources, the emails contained suggestions by the officials on how the White House should respond to what it believed were increasingly destructive comments Wilson had been making about the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence.
The witnesses, who are current and former White House officials who are cooperating in the case, told the grand jury that they communicated verbally and through email with Libby and Rove and other senior officials about Wilson's comments to reporters about the administration's intelligence and how the White House should respond to the media regarding that.
Fitzgerald's staff, however, could not locate the email communication the officials disclosed during their grand jury testimony in the thousands of documents his staff had obtained during the course of his investigation.
Fitzgerald's suspicions about the possibility of evidence destruction arose just a few weeks after he took over the probe into the leak of Plame Wilson's undercover CIA status in early 2004. By then, sources close to the case said, he already believed that Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby - who was indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators related to his role in the leak - were hindering his investigation.
Acting on a tip received during the early stages of the investigation that Rove may have withheld or destroyed an email that would have implicated him in the Plame Wilson leak, these sources said, Fitzgerald sent a letter in January 2004 to his boss, then-acting Attorney General James Comey, seeking confirmation that he had the authority to investigate and prosecute individuals for additional crimes, including obstruction of justice, perjury and destroying evidence. The leak investigation had been centered up to that point on an obscure law making it a felony for any government official to knowingly disclose the identity of an undercover CIA officer.
Comey responded to Fitzgerald in writing on February 6, 2004, confirming that Fitzgerald had the authority to prosecute "perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses."
Fitzgerald's suspicions may have been right: on Wednesday, he wrote a letter to Libby's attorneys in response to a defense request for prosecution documents related to the probe. The letter confirmed a new development in the case first published by this reporter in mid-December: that some electronic communication related to various officials' roles in the leak had not been turned over to his investigative staff as ordered by a federal subpoena more than two years ago.
The same day Fitzgerald received the response letter from Comey, the White House faced a deadline for turning over administration contacts with 25 journalists to the grand jury investigating the leak.
Three months earlier, in late 2003, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales enjoined all White House staff to turn over any communication about Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, Joseph Wilson. Gonzales's directive came 12 hours after senior White House officials had been told of the pending investigation.
In the recent letter sent to Libby's attorneys dated January 23, Fitzgerald says that during the course of his investigation, he had been told that some emails from the offices of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had not been saved. His letter does not claim that any member of the Bush administration discarded the emails, but sources close to the probe say that is what Fitzgerald has been alleging privately.
"In an abundance of caution," Fitzgerald's January 23 letter to Libby's defense team states, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."
According to sources, Libby, Rove and Card started sending emails to each other and other administration officials in mid- to late May about the explosive allegations made against the Bush administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the White House of "twisting" the intelligence so it could get the public and Congress to support a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.
One particular email that didn't turn up early on in the investigation is an email Rove sent to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley in early July 2003, which later proved Rove had spoken to Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about Plame - a fact that Rove omitted when he was first interviewed by the FBI and during his first grand jury testimony in February 2004.
Hadley was also required to comply with the subpoena and the Gonzales order. But it's unknown whether he turned over the email to Fitzgerald or to Justice Department and FBI investigators some three months earlier. If he did, Fitzgerald knew of its existence all along - even while Rove, for nearly a year, was not being forthcoming with Fitzgerald or the grand jury.
If, in addition to Rove, Hadley also failed to locate and turn over the email, it raises more questions about his own role in the matter.
Hadley was interviewed by investigators to determine if he was involved in the leak, but has so far not entertained questions about his role, if any.
Rove still remains under intense scrutiny for his role in the leak while Fitzgerald responds to the numerous questions asked about the case by the new grand jury he empanelled in November. Fitzgerald has also been dealing with high-profile criminal cases in Chicago while the grand jury in the Plame Wilson case familiarizes itself with the probe.
Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak invesigation, and will be a regular contributer to t r u t h o u t.