Libby found guilty in CIA leak trial
Libby found guilty in CIA leak trial
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN and MATT APUZZO, Associated
Press Writers 28 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Once the closest adviser to Vice
Dick Cheney, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted
Tuesday of lying and obstructing a leak investigation
that shook the top levels of the Bush administration.
He is the highest-ranking White House official
convicted in a government scandal since National
Security Adviser John Poindexter in the
Iran-Contra affair two decades ago.
In the end, jurors said they did not believe Libby's
main defense: that he hadn't lied but merely had a bad
The CIA leak case focused new attention on the Bush
administration's much-criticized handling of
intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction
in the run-up to the Iraq war. The case cost Cheney
his most trusted adviser, and the trial revealed
Cheney's personal obsession with criticism of the
Trial testimony made clear that President Bush
secretly declassified a portion of the prewar
intelligence estimate that Cheney quietly sent Libby
to leak to Judith Miller of The New York Times in 2003
to rebut criticism by ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Bush, Cheney and Libby were the only three people in
the government aware of the effort.
More top reporters were ordered into court including
Miller after 85 days of resistance in jail to
testify about their confidential sources among the
nation's highest-ranking officials than in any other
trial in recent memory.
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said the verdict
closed the nearly four-year investigation into how the
name of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, and her
classified job at the CIA were leaked to reporters in
2003 just days after Wilson publicly accused the
administration of doctoring prewar intelligence. No
one will be charged with the leak itself, which the
trial confirmed came first from then-Deputy Secretary
of State Richard Armitage.
"The results are actually sad," Fitzgerald told
reporters after the verdict. "It's sad that we had a
situation where a high-level official person who
worked in the office of the vice president obstructed
justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not
happened, but it did."
One juror, former Washington Post reporter Denis
Collins, said the jury did not believe Libby's main
defense: that he never lied but just had a faulty
memory. Juror Jeff Comer agreed.
Collins said the jurors spent a week charting the
testimony and evidence on 34 poster-size pages. "There
were good managerial type people on this jury who took
everything apart and put it in the right place,"
Collins said. "After that, it wasn't a matter of
opinion. It was just there."
Libby, not only Cheney's chief of staff but also an
assistant to Bush, was expressionless as the verdict
was announced on the 10th day of deliberations. In the
front row, his wife, Harriet Grant, choked out a sob
and her head sank.
Libby could face up to 25 years in prison when
sentenced June 5, but federal sentencing guidelines
will probably prescribe far less, perhaps one to three
years. Defense attorneys said they would ask for a
retrial and if that fails, appeal the conviction.
"We have every confidence Mr. Libby ultimately will be
vindicated," defense attorney Theodore Wells told
reporters. He said that Libby was "totally innocent
and that he did not do anything wrong."
Libby did not speak to reporters.
The president watched news of the verdict on
television at the White House. Deputy press secretary
Dana Perino said Bush respected the jury's verdict but
"was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family."
In a written statement, Cheney called the verdict
disappointing and said he was saddened for Libby and
his family, too. "As I have said before, Scooter has
served our nation tirelessly and with great
distinction through many years of public service."
Wilson, whose wife left the CIA after she was exposed,
said, "Convicting him of perjury was like convicting
Al Capone of tax evasion or Alger Hiss of perjury. It
doesn't mean they were not guilty of other crimes."
Libby was convicted of one count of obstruction of
justice, two counts of perjury to the grand jury and
one count of lying to the FBI about how he learned
Plame's identity and whom he told.
Libby learned about Plame from Cheney in June 2003
about a month after Wilson's allegations were first
published, without his name, by New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Prosecutors said Libby relayed the Plame information
to other government officials and told reporters,
Miller of the Times and Matt Cooper of Time magazine,
that she worked at the CIA.
On July 6, 2003, Wilson publicly wrote that he had
gone to Niger in 2002 and debunked a report that Iraq
was seeking uranium there for nuclear weapons and that
Cheney, who had asked about the report, should have
known his findings long before Bush cited the report
in 2003 as a justification for the war. On July 14,
columnist Robert Novak reported that Wilson's wife
worked at the CIA and she, not Cheney, had suggested
he go on the trip.
When an investigation of the leak began, prosecutors
said, Libby feared prosecution for disclosing
classified information so he lied to investigators to
make his discussions appear innocent.
Libby swore that he was so busy he forgot Cheney had
told him about Plame, and was surprised to learn it a
month later from NBC reporter Tim Russert. He swore he
told reporters only that he learned it from other
reporters and could not confirm it.
Russert, however, testified he and Libby never even
Libby blamed any misstatements in his account on flaws
in his memory.
He was acquitted of one count of lying to the FBI
about his conversation with Cooper.
Collins said jurors agreed that on nine occasions
during a short period of 2003, Libby was either told
about Plame or told others about her.
"If I'm told something once, I'm likely to forget it,"
Collins recalled one juror saying. "If I'm told it
many times, I'm less likely to forget it. If I myself
tell it to someone else, I'm even less likely to
Libby is free pending sentencing. His lawyers will ask
that he remain so through any appeal.
Associated Press writer Natasha T. Metzler contributed
to this report.