US Vice President Dick Cheney was the source of his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, about the identity of the now disclosed CIA officer weeks before the covert agent's identity became public in 2003.
Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Libby and Cheney on June 12, 2003, appeared to differ from Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury investigating the case that he initially learned about the CIA officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, The New York Times reported Tuesday, quoting lawyers involved in the case.
The notes, taken by Libby during the conversation, for the first time placed Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war, the report said.
The notes showed that Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson, also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column on July 14, 2003, days after her husband, a former diplomat, wrote an article in The New York Times criticizing the Bush administration for twisting intelligence to justify its invasion of Iraq before the war, lawyers involved in the case said.
Libby's notes indicated that Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, then CIA director, in response to questions from the vice president about Wilson, but they contained no suggestion that either Cheney or Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified.
Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.
It would not be illegal for either Cheney or Libby to discuss a CIA officer or her link to a critic of the administration, the report said. But any effort by Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.
Fitzgerald is expected to decide whether to bring charges in the case by Friday, when the term of the grand jury expires. Libby and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's senior adviser, both face the possibility of indictment, lawyers involved in the case have said.
The notes did not show that Cheney knew the name of Wilson's wife. But they did show that Cheney did know and told Libby that Ms. Wilson was employed by the CIA and that she might have helped arrange her husband's trip to Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium there, the report said.