"You can be guilty of covering up an innocent act," NYU's Gillers said. "The government has an interest in getting to the bottom of it, whether it was a crime or not."
If Fitzgerald doesn't bring charges against anyone, he'll be barred from revealing much of what was divulged before the grand jury, sparing Bush the embarrassment of a detailed official accounting of his White House's role in the leak.
"If there are indictments, it will be the worst scenario possible for the White House," diGenova said.
But in the absence of criminal charges, he added, "much of the story will be known even without a report from" Fitzgerald. Those involved will likely start "gushing forth" about the case, diGenova said, and, "There ain't much that's going to be secret once this is over."
Key dates in the CIA leak investigation
Jan. 28 -- President Bush delivers his State of the Union address, laying out his case for the war in Iraq and referring to evidence from Britain that Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa.
July 6 -- Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV accuses Bush in a New York Times op-ed of twisting intelligence to justify the war.
July 14 -- Robert Novak names Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative in a column, attributing the information to two administration officials.
July 17 -- A Time magazine report online by Matthew Cooper and others says government officials divulged Plame's name.
Sept. 16 -- White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismisses as "totally ridiculous" a question about whether top Bush aide Karl Rove was the source of the leak.
Sept. 20 -- The Justice Department opens an investigation of the leak, and Bush tells reporters, "If there's a leak in my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."
Dec. 30 -- Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from the investigation, and it is turned over to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a Chicago-based federal prosecutor.
January-June -- A grand jury convened by Fitzgerald questions White House aides including McClellan and Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush's counsel. The grand jury subpoenas journalists, including Cooper.
June 24 -- Fitzgerald and his team interview Bush in the Oval Office for more than an hour without putting him under oath.
Aug. 12 -- The grand jury subpoenas New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who has not written about Plame.
October -- Miller and Cooper are held in contempt of court for refusing to identify confidential sources.
Oct. 15 -- Rove testifies before the grand jury, and his attorney says Fitzgerald has assured him Rove is not a target of the investigation.
June -- The Supreme Court declines to review Cooper and Miller's appeals of their contempt orders.
July 6 -- Miller goes to jail for refusing to testify. Cooper agrees to testify, saying he received permission from his confidential source.
July 11 -- After news reports pointing to Rove as Cooper's source contradict McClellan's earlier denials, McClellan refuses at a briefing with reporters to comment on the probe, saying he won't talk about an ongoing investigation.
July 17 -- Time magazine publishes an account by Cooper in which he names Rove as his source for identifying Plame as a CIA employee, but writes that Rove never said her name.
Sept. 29 -- Miller is released from jail after she agrees to testify. The New York Times says she received express permission from her confidential source and had become convinced that it was not coerced. The next day, Miller testifies and a New York Times story identifies Libby as her source.
Wednesday -- Miller testifies before the grand jury a second time.
Friday -- Rove makes his fourth trip to the grand jury. Luskin says it will be Rove's last appearance and says that Fitzgerald still has not notified him that his client is a target.
Oct. 28 -- The current grand jury's term is scheduled to end, leaving Fitzgerald to decide whether to convene another, bring criminal charges or end his investigation without indictments.