October 28, 2005 at 4:29 PM CDT - Updated July 11 at 8:56 PM
Vice President Dick Cheney's chief advisor I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been indicted today in the CIA leak investigation, sources close to the case told ABC News. Top White House strategist Karl Rove will evade charges for now.
A source close to the White House told ABC News that Libby's "boxes are packed", and he has submitted his letter of resignation to the White House. Papers containing information pertaining to the investigation will be made public this afternoon while Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor appointed to lead the investigation, will make remarks on the case at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Rove, deputy White House chief of staff and Bush's closest adviser, appears to have escaped indictment, but Fitzgerald is expected to continue his investigation.
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said he was told by Fitzgerald's office that investigators had "made no decision about whether or not to bring charges" and would continue their probe into Rove's conduct. Rove has testified four times before the grand jury and has maintained that he discussedWilson's wife with reporters on the condition of anonymity and was only trading information that came from other reporters.
"We are confident that when the Special Counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong," Luskin said in a statement.
Long, Tangled Journey to Indictment
Fitzgerald has been investigating the disclosure to reporters of the identity of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame. The case goes back to February 2002, when CIA officials asked former diplomat Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband, to investigate a report that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain uranium from Niger in the late 1990s for the production of nuclear weapons. Wilson concluded that the report was false. The documents related to the alleged sale were ultimately determined to be forgeries.
However, President Bush made reference to a purported uranium deal between Iraq and Africa in his State of the Union address in January 2003. Six months later, Wilson publicly accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence and exaggerating the threat from Iraq to justify going to war, prompting criticism from conservatives and Bush supporters. Six days after a critical op-ed penned by Wilson appeared in The New York Times, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote that "two senior administration officials" had told him that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative and had suggested sending him on the trip to Africa -- and he identified her as Valerie Plame.
Novak wasn't the only reporter who apparently had learned about Plame's identity. Several reporters had had conversations with administration officials about a CIA link to Wilson's wife.
One of the officials who allegedly talked to reporters was Libby. Before the CIA leak investigation began, one of the words most commonly used to describe Libby was "discreet." He has testified before the grand jury, and testimony shows that he met three times with a New York Times reporter before the Plame leak, initiated a call to an NBC reporter and was a confirming source about Wilson's wife to Time magazine. Like Rove, he is said to have talked to reporters under anonymity and was only trading information that he had heard from other reporters.
Administration Dogged by Questions
There have also been questions about Cheney's alleged role in the CIA leak.
The New York Times has reported that notes from a previously undisclosed June 12, 2003, conversation between Libby and Cheney suggest Libby first learned about Plame from Cheney himself. This appears to contradict Libby's grand jury testimony that he first heard about Plame from journalists.
With the outing, Plame's career as a covert CIA operative has ended. The leak of her identity has sparked the questions: Who revealed Plame's identity, and why? These questions have dogged the Bush administration as weapons of mass destruction -- the initial rationale for the United States attacking Iraq -- have never been found and the death toll continues to mount. Wilson has claimed that the leak was made in retaliation for his criticism of the Bush administration's argument for going to war in Iraq.
Knowingly disclosing the identity of a covert agent like Plame could be a violation of the Intelligence Indentities Protection Act and could land a person in prison for up to 10 years.
Reported by ABC News' Jonathan Karl; updated by ktre.com staff