Indicted former top White House aide Lewis `Scooter' Libby will argue that Vice President Dick Cheney authorized him to leak classified information in 2003 to bolster the case for the US-led war against Iraq, US news media reported late on Thursday.
Libby, who has been charged in a federal investigation into the outing of a CIA agent, will in part base his defense on the claim that Cheney had encouraged him to share classified information with reporters, NBC television news said, citing sources familiar with the case.
Libby's attorneys discussed Cheney's authorization with federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the judge handling the case in a recent teleconference call, NBC News reported.
The online edition of the magazine National Journal reported that Libby had testified to a federal grand jury that Cheney and other White House "superiors" had "authorized" him in mid-2003 to leak classified information to defend the administration's prewar intelligence assertions in making the case to go to war with Iraq.
The magazine quoted attorneys familiar with the matter and court records as sources.
Libby also argued that Cheney authorized him to release details of the classified National Intelligence Estimate, the magazine reported, citing sources with firsthand knowledge.
Senator Edward Kennedy of the opposition Democrats called the new revelations, if true, "a new low" in the "sordid case."
"The vice presidents vindictiveness in defending the misguided war in Iraq is obvious. If he used classified information to defend it, he should be prepared to take full responsibility. President [George W.] Bush has clearly said he would clean house of everyone who had anything to do with the Plame leak," Kennedy said in a statement.
Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, denies charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements.
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