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Libby's lawyers: Prosecutors withholding information
Lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby are seeking sensitive intelligence material to help his defense.



Dick Cheney
George W. Bush
Lewis Libby

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the indicted former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, are accusing federal prosecutors of withholding information needed to provide their client with a thorough defense.

In documents filed Wednesday, Libby's attorneys said prosecutors can't "have it both ways" by claiming that issues in the perjury case pertain only to Libby while broadening the case by offering details about the disclosure of parts of the classified National Intelligence Estimate.

The lawyers said broadening the case requires the defense to ask for more information in the discovery process before trial.

Libby is charged in a five-count federal indictment with lying to the FBI and a grand jury investigating how the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame was leaked to the media.

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

Defense lawyers noted that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald set off "an avalanche of media interest" last week by filing documents indicating Libby had testified that Cheney told him in 2003 Bush had authorized the release of parts of the NIE. (Full story)

In a follow-up letter to the judge released Wednesday by the court, Fitzgerald said Libby understood that he was to tell a reporter "among other things, some of the key judgments of the NIE, and that the NIE stated that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium."

In their Wednesday filing, defense attorneys said, "We emphasize that, consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning [Plame] by President Bush, Vice President Cheney or anyone else."

Fitzgerald's filing did not implicate the president in any disclosure about Plame's employment.

This week Bush acknowledged that he authorized the release of portions of the NIE because some Americans questioned his reasons for going to war with Iraq. (Watch as Bush explains his decision -- 2:02)

Plame's 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, the CIA dispatched Wilson to Africa 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.

Some U.S. intelligence at the time bolstered Wilson's position that the uranium claim was not supported by evidence. But the information that the White House released, selected from the NIE, supported the administration's stance.

Defense: Classified files needed

"The government has effectively conceded that the case extends far beyond Mr. Libby but refuses to provide defendant with discovery that reflects that fact," defense attorneys said in Wednesday's documents.

The attorneys added that the government "proceeds from the flawed premise that the defense must accept the government's version of the facts in crafting its discovery demands."

They contend Libby 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 weapons of mass destructions in Iraq.

Libby's attorneys said they are seeking "documents generated, received or reviewed by key potential trial witnesses about events the government describes in the indictment." They said they have received about six boxes of discovery documents so far, although the prosecution has collected thousands of documents.

The defense said that by withholding information, the government is too narrowly interpreting Rule 16 in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which governs the discovery process.

Wilson to Bush: 'Release transcripts'

Earlier this week, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Bush to tell Americans why the White House leaked intelligence to bolster the case for the Iraq war in 2003.

"I think that it is necessary for the president and the vice president to tell the American people exactly what happened," Specter told "Fox News Sunday."

"The president may be entirely in the clear, and it may turn out that he had the authority to make the disclosures which were made, but that it was not the right way to go about it because we ought not to have leaks in government," Specter said. "We ought not to have them." (Full story)

Also Sunday, on ABC's "This Week," Wilson urged the White House "to come clean."

In the interview, Wilson called on Bush and Cheney to "release the transcripts of their testimony to the prosecutor."

CNN's Paul Courson contributed to this report.

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