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Cheney: 'I don't recall' leaking Valerie Plame's CIA cover to 'Scooter' Libby

November 2, 2009 |  9:21 am

Former Vice President Dick Cheney at Ford Foundation Journalism Awards June 1, 2009

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, sometimes referred to as the Darth Vader of American politics, has been valiant in his defense of his former chief of staff, I, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the only guy convicted of lying about his role in the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. Cheney pushed hard for a full pardon, reportedly furious when former President Bush only commuted Libby's sentence.

For years it was assumed that Cheney masterminded the leak in an effort to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, whose reports out of Niger threw doubt on White House claims that Iraq was importing ingredients to make weapons of mass destruction. Now, in just-released documents, the FBI concludes that Cheney told Libby and his press secretary, Cathie Martin, about Plame's ID about a month before the news hit the papers.

But the amazing thing about the FBI documents describing Cheney's 2004 interviews with investigators is how often he employs the "I don't recall" line.

Cheney told the FBI he did not recall discussing Plame with Libby prior to her name being published in a column by Robert Novak in July 2003, and said he had no knowledge of Libby's meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller before Plame was identified in that paper.

Oh, and the former vice president didn't recall about two dozen other events he was involved in.

Oddly, though Cheney said he could not recall whether he discussed Plame with White House political guru Karl Rove, Libby and others, he was certain he did not discuss her with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage (the original source of the leak). Also, he was real sure that Wilson's report on Niger was weak, calling it "amateur hour" at the CIA.

"For years the American people have wondered what role Vice President Cheney played in outing former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which helped free the documents. Now, she said, "we're one step closer" to finding out.

During his closing argument at Libby’s trial, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said a cloud remained over the vice president. Said Sloan: "Mr. Cheney's near total amnesia regarding his role in this monumental Washington scandal -- resulting in the conviction of his top aide -- shows why."

-- Johanna Neuman

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 Photo credit: Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images North America.