By MATT APUZZO
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 10:16 AM
WASHINGTON -- Amid the furor over the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, bluntly told a White House lawyer, "I didn't do it," the lawyer testified Tuesday.
David Addington, who served as Cheney's legal counsel during the CIA leak scandal, described a September 2003 meeting with Libby around the time that a criminal investigation began.
"I just want to tell you, I didn't do it," Addington recalled Libby saying. "I didn't ask what the 'it' was."
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says Libby discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame with reporters, then lied about those conversations. He is accused of perjury and obstruction but neither he nor anyone else is charged with the leak itself.
Recalling their 2003 conversation in Libby's office, Addington testified Tuesday that Libby was curious about how someone could determine whether a CIA employee was working undercover. Addington, a former CIA counsel, said there's no way to know.
Addington said he gave Libby a highlighted copy of the federal law barring disclosure of the identity of covert agents.
Fitzgerald hopes Addington's testimony will bolster his argument that Libby was worried about whether his conversations with reporters were improper and therefore lied to conceal them.
Libby resigned as Cheney's chief of staff after being indicted in October 2005. Addington succeeded him.
The trial's first week has focused on when Libby learned that Plame, the wife of an outspoken Bush administration critic, worked for the CIA. Government officials testified that they discussed her with Libby days before he said he was surprised to hear it from NBC reporter Tim Russert.
Libby's conversations with reporters are about to become the focus of the case. Fitzgerald said former New York Times reporter Judith Miller would follow Addington on the witness stand.
It would be the first time the former New York Times reporter has testified publicly against the man she went to jail to protect as a source.
Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with Fitzgerald's investigating and reveal her conversations with Libby. She retired from the Times in November 2005, declaring that she had to leave because she had "become the news."
Prosecutors say Libby discussed Plame with Miller three times. Two of those conversations occurred before Libby says he first remembered learning Plame's identity from Russert.
Associated Press Writer Michael J. Sniffen contributed to this report.