Washington — In a new court filing, the prosecutor in the CIA leak case revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney made handwritten references to CIA officer Valerie Plame - albeit not by name - before her identity was publicly exposed.
The new court filing is the second in little more than a month by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald mentioning Cheney as being closely focused with his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, on Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, who is married to Plame.
With the two court filings, Fitzgerald has pointed to an important role for the vice president in the weeks leading up to the leaking of Plame's identity.
In the latest court filing late Friday, Fitzgerald said he intends to introduce at Libby's trial in January a copy of Wilson's op-ed article in The New York Times "bearing handwritten notations by the vice president." The article was published on July 6, 2003, eight days before Plame's identity was exposed by conservative columnist Bob Novak.
The notations "support the proposition that publication of the Wilson Op Ed acutely focused the attention of the vice president and the defendant - his chief of staff - on Mr. Wilson, on the assertions made in the article and on responding to those assertions."
The article containing Cheney's notes "reflects the contemporaneous reaction of the vice president to Mr. Wilson's Op Ed article," the prosecutor said. "This is relevant to establishing some of the facts that were viewed as important by the defendant's immediate superior, including whether Mr. Wilson's wife had 'sent him on a junket,'" the filing states.
The reference is to the fact that the CIA sent Wilson on a trip to Africa in 2002 to check out a report that Iraq had made attempts to acquire uranium yellowcake from Niger.
Wilson concluded that it was highly doubtful an agreement to purchase uranium had been made.
The Bush administration used the intelligence on supposed efforts by Iraq to acquire uranium from Africa to bolster its case for going to war.
After the invasion, with the Bush White House under pressure because no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, Wilson wrote the op ed piece for The Times. In it, he accused the Bush administration of exaggerating prewar intelligence to exaggerate an Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction.
Defending the administration against Wilson's accusations, Libby and presidential adviser Karl Rove promoted the idea that Wilson's wife, Plame, had sent him on the trip to Africa. Administration critics have said such a move was an attempt to undercut Wilson's credibility.