These sources work or worked at the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council. Some of these sources are attorneys close to the case. They requested anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the details of the investigation.
In lengthy interviews over the weekend and on Monday, they said that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has started to prepare the paperwork to present to the grand jury seeking an indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
Although the situation remains fluid, it's possible, these sources said, that Fitzgerald may seek to indict both Rove and Hadley, charging them with perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy related to their roles in the leak of Plame Wilson's identity and their effort to cover up their involvement following a Justice Department investigation.
The sources said late Monday that it may take more than a month before Fitzgerald presents the paperwork outlining the government's case against one or both of the officials and asks the grand jury to return an indictment, because he is currently juggling quite a few high-profile criminal cases and will need to carve out time to write up the indictment and prepare the evidence.
In addition to responding to discovery requests from Libby's defense team and appearing in court with his attorneys, who are trying to obtain additional evidence, such as top-secret documents, from Fitzgerald's probe, the special prosecutor is also prosecuting Lord Conrad Black, the newspaper magnate, has recently charged numerous individuals in a child pornography ring, and is wrestling with other lawsuits in his home city of Chicago.
Details about the latest stage of the investigation began to take shape a few weeks ago when the lead FBI investigator on the leak case, John C. Eckenrode, retired from the agency and indicated to several colleagues that the investigation is about to wrap up with indictments handed up by the grand jury against Rove or Hadley or both officials, the sources said.
The Philadelphia-based Eckenrode is finished with his work on the case; however, he is expected to testify as a witness for the prosecution next year against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted in October on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators regarding his role in the leak.
Hadley and Rove remain under intense scrutiny, but sources said Fitzgerald has not yet decided whether to seek charges against one or both of them.
Libby and other officials in Cheney's office used the information they obtained about Plame Wilson to undermine the credibility of her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson was an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. He had alleged that President Bush misspoke when he said, in his January 2003 State of the Union address, that Iraq had tried to acquire yellow-cake uranium, the key component used to build a nuclear bomb, from Niger.
The uranium claim was the silver bullet in getting Congress to support military action two months later. To date, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and the country barely had a functional weapons program, according to a report from the Iraq Survey Group.
Wilson had traveled to Niger more than a year earlier to investigate the yellow-cake claims and reported back to the CIA that intelligence reports saying Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger were false.
On Monday, though, attorneys close to the leak case confirmed that Fitzgerald had met with the grand jury half a dozen times since January and recently told the jurors that he planned to present them with the government's case against Rove or Hadley, which stems from an email Rove had sent to Hadley in July of 2003 indicating that he had a conversation about Plame Wilson with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.
Neither Hadley nor Rove disclosed the existence of the email when they were questioned by FBI investigators or when they testified before a grand jury, the sources said, adding that Rove testified he found out about Plame Wilson from reporters and Hadley testified that he recalled learning about Plame Wilson when her name was published in a newspaper column.
Rove testified before the grand jury four times. He did not disclose the existence of the email during two of the times he testified, claiming he simply forgot about it because he was enmeshed with the 2004 Presidential election, traveling around the country attending fundraisers and meetings, working more than 15 hours a day on the campaign, and just forgot that he spoke with Cooper three months earlier, sources familiar with his testimony said.
But Rove and Libby had been the subject of dozens of news stories about the possibility that they played a role in the leak, and had faced dozens of questions as early as August 2003 - one month after Plame Wilson was outed - about whether they were the administration officials responsible for leaking her identity.