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April 9, 2006; Page A01
Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer at the Washington Post write: A 'Concerted Effort' to Discredit Bush Critic
Prosecutor Describes Cheney, Libby as Key Voices Pitching Iraq-Niger StoryAs he drew back the curtain this week on the evidence against Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time described a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" -- using classified information -- to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq.Bluntly and repeatedly, Fitzgerald placed Cheney at the center of that campaign. Citing grand jury testimony from the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald fingered Cheney as the first to voice a line of attack that at least three White House officials would soon deploy against former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.
One striking feature of that decision -- unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it -- is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.
Fitzgerald wrote that Cheney and his aides saw Wilson as a threat to "the credibility of the Vice President (and the President) on a matter of signal importance: the rationale for the war in Iraq." They decided to respond by implying that Wilson got his CIA assignment by "nepotism."They were not alone. Fitzgerald reported for the first time this week that "multiple officials in the White House"-- not only Libby and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who have previously been identified -- discussed Plame's CIA employment with reporters before and after publication of her name on July 14, 2003, in a column by Robert D. Novak. Fitzgerald said the grand jury has collected so much testimony and so many documents that "it is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to 'punish' Wilson."