Friday, June 2, 2006
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued an opinion and order (available below) denying for the most part the requests for production of documents by I. Lewis Libby. The court did order the government to turn over any documents related to efforts by Libby to rebut the charges leveled by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, including "any documentation of discussions the defendant had concerning Ambassador Joseph Wilson, his trip to Niger, or Valerie Plame Wilson with any news reporters or other government officials that were conducted in an attempt to achieve this objective . . . ." Judge Walton rejected the defendant's broader demands for all documents from the State Department, CIA, Executive Office of the President, and National Security Council related to Ambassador Wilson's trip to Niger that triggered this entire controversy. The court held that these documents do not meet the requirement of materiality under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(E), which governs pretrial discovery in federal prosecutions. The opinion states:
[T]he fact that other governmental officials may have known before July 14, 2003, that Ms. Wilson worked for the CIA is completely immaterial unless that information was shared with either the defendant, [Judith] Miller, [Timothy] Russert, or [Matthew] Cooper. Moreover, the only use that could be made with the vast majority of the requested documents that fall within the seven categories would be to challenge the accuracy of Ambassador Wilson’s comments about the validity of President Bush’s statement about Saddam Hussein and Niger in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union address. And, as previously discussed, documents and information which may have bearing on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the President’s statement on that topic, why the United States invaded Iraq, and the circumstances surrounding Ambassador Wilson’s trip to Niger and his reported findings are wholly immaterial to this case.
The court also rejected Libby's request for documents related to the declassification of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that the Vice President directed Libby to discuss with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Judge Walton relied on the Special Counsel's assertion that it would not raise the propriety of the NIE disclosure in finding that these documents were similarly immaterial to the defense at trial.
The district court's decision resolves, at least for the moment, the defense demands for a broad swath of documents covering a number of different Executive Branch offices that could well have bogged down the case. Don't think, however, that the discovery fights are finished, or even close to being done -- I suspect the classified information issues are still being fought out. (ph)