Independent Online Edition > Americas:
Further evidence that the administration had manipulated intelligence came in documents showing that Lewis Libby, Vice-President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, told prosecutors he had been "authorised by superiors" to leak classified intelligence to reporters in the early summer of 2003, as it became increasingly evident that contrary to White House claims, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Libby, who is facing perjury charges in the affair of the leak of the identity of the covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. But the "superiors" in question can only be Mr Cheney himself.

The revelations thus open the White House to charges of hypocrisy - that it was railing against the leak that the NSA, supposed to deal exclusively with foreign intelligence, had a secret domestic spying programme, but had blithely encouraged intelligence leaks that suited its purposes.

In a separate embarrassment, the lobbyist Jack Abramoff has claimed that he met Mr Bush "almost a dozen times", and had even been invited in 2003 to the President's ranch in Texas for a thank-you meeting for campaign contributors. If true, the claim would cast doubt on Mr Bush's insistence that he cannot remember meeting the lobbyist, who is at the centre of a spreading corruption and influence-peddling scandal.

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