WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dick Cheney, then U.S. vice president, had harsh words for the CIA sending a spy’s husband to Africa to see if Iraq was seeking nuclear material, according to an interview with the FBI released on Friday.
Cheney was interviewed in 2004 as part of a probe into who leaked to a newspaper columnist the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of Joe Wilson who went on the trip to Niger to see if Iraq was trying to buy uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons.
Ultimately, senior State Department official Richard Armitage was found to be the source of the leak. Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted of lying to investigators and obstructing the leak probe.
Cheney told the FBI he believed it was “amateur hour” at the CIA after reading an article by Wilson stating he had been sent to Africa by the CIA. Wilson, a former diplomat, implied in the article that Cheney had requested someone make the trip as the Bush administration ought to prove Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.
The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 on the premise that Iraq was secretly developing weapons of mass destruction, none of which were found.
Cheney also told the FBI investigators he had “no idea who may have made the unauthorized disclosure” of Plame’s identity to the columnist. He specifically denied talking to Armitage and other senior administration officials about Plame.
Since leaving office, Cheney has said he was unhappy President George W. Bush refused to pardon Libby. Bush did commute his 2-1/2-year prison sentence.
At the end of Libby’s trial, the lead prosecutor said a cloud remained over Cheney for his role in the leak case.
In the FBI’s interview notes released on Friday, investigators said Cheney repeatedly did not recall many of the events they sought to question him about.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics group in Washington had sued to have the notes of the FBI interview of Cheney released. The Obama administration initially sought to block the release but decided not to appeal a court decision.
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky and James Vicini; Editing by Peter Cooney