“Plamegate” was a 2002-2003 scandal that centered around Valerie Plame, a CIA employee and the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson. The other key figure in the scandal was I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who, since January 2001, had been employed as Assistant to the President of the United States, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, and Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs. In the course of his work, Libby often had access to classified information which he was legally obligated not to disclose to persons unauthorized to receive it. At issue in this case was Libby’s alleged breach of Valerie Plame's anonymity as a CIA employee.
In 2002 Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, was dispatched by the CIA to Niger to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government had been trying to acquire, from Niger, uranium yellowcake -- a processed form of uranium ore that is used in nuclear reactors. Plame played a key role in arranging this fact-finding trip for her husband. Wilson reported his findings to the CIA upon his return to the U.S., stating that the assertions about uranium yellowcake had been based on forged documents.
On January 28, 2003, President George W. Bush delivered a State of the Union address which included sixteen words stating that: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Critics of the President subsequently cited the fact that this statement had been made despite Wilson’s claims as evidence that Mr. Bush, in order to justify a preemptive invasion of Iraq, had knowingly misled the American public about Iraq’s efforts to acquire the raw materials for weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
On July 6, 2003, Wilson published an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” -- a reference to the allegedly nonexistent evidence of Iraq's effort to acquire uranium yellowcake from Niger.
Eight days later, on July 14, 2003, journalist Robert Novak revealed Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent in his Washington Post column. Suspicions quickly arose that Novak had obtained this information from Libby. Critics of the Bush administration speculated that Libby, on behalf of the White House, had “outed” her to retaliate against her husband Joseph Wilson for embarrassing the President.
In September 2003, the Department of Justice authorized the FBI to commence a criminal investigation of Libby's actions. Beginning in January 2004, a grand jury was empaneled to determine which government officials had disclosed (to the media) information concerning the affiliation of Valerie Plame with the CIA -- and to ascertain what may have been the nature, timing, extent, and purpose of such disclosures.
On October 28, 2005, Libby was officially charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements to FBI investigators, and two counts of lying to the grand jury. He was not charged with actually leaking a CIA officer's name. Special Investigator Patrick Fitzgerald knew from an early stage that the person who in fact had disclosed Ms. Plame’s name to the media was not Libby, but rather Richard Armitage, a former State Department official who opposed the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq.
The investigation of Libby ended on March 6, 2007, when the defendant was convicted of having given misleading testimony about the identity of the person who had told him about Ms. Plame's role with the CIA.
The left falsely depicted Libby's conviction as a discrediting of America's pre-war intelligence, and used the judgment against him to promote the notion that "Bush lied, people died." But in fact the President had not lied about Saddam's attempt to purchase uranium from Niger. The Nigerian government believed that it had told Wilson that there was substance to the charges about yellowcake uranium. As The Washington Post editorialized, “Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth” in saying he had debunked the Niger story.