Libby convicted on 4 of 5 counts in CIA leak case
Lewis (Scooter) Libby, former chief of staff to U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to investigators in a case tied to the Iraq war.
The jury in Washington, D.C., came back Tuesday with the verdict after nearly 10 days of deliberations.
The case involved the exposure of a CIA operative's identity — which is a crime in the United States — and efforts by U.S. President George W. Bush's administration to spin intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq.
Libby was the only person charged in the affair. As has happenedbefore in U.S. politics— notably in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s — he was caught for a coverup rather than for the alleged originalwrongdoing.
The affair, which unfolded in 2003, involved a White House campaign to counter charges by former diplomat Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration ignored his report discounting the idea that Saddam Hussein tried to obtain uranium in Africa.
Wilson had publicly accused the White House of twisting information to strengthen its case that the then-Iraqi president was developing so-called weapons of mass destruction.
Libby, whose boss was frequently described as the most powerful vice-president in U.S. history, was one of at least two officials who told reporters that the diplomat's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative.
The suggestion was that Wilson's advice should be ignored because Plame had arranged his fact-finding trip as a junket for him.
Plame, an analystspecializing in arms control, was not exactly Hollywood's idea of a secret agent, but she had travelled to foreign countries without disclosing that she was a CIA operative.
Libby could face decades in jail
Columnist Robert Novak, whoouted her in print, saidthat one of his sources wasBush's chiefpolitical strategist, Karl Rove.
Libby's lawyers suggested their clientwas being made a scapegoat in the case toprotect Rove.
Despite the leaks, no one was charged with blowing Plame's cover.
Libby was convicted ontwo counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of lying to investigators about how he learned Plame's identity and whom he told.
He was acquitted on one count of lying to investigators abouta conversation with a Time magazine reporter.
If given the maximum sentence,he would face30 yearsin prison. Sentencing was set for June 5.
Defence to ask for new trial
Libby did not testify in the trial. Hislawyers said the pressure of his job led him to make mistakes about what he said when and to whom.
His chief defence counsel, Theodore Wells, said after the verdict his client was "totally innocent" and would seek another chance to prove it.
"We intend to file a motion for a new trial and if that is denied, we will appeal the conviction and we have every confidence that ultimately Mr. Libby will be vindicated," Wells told reporters.
For the defence team, the case was complicated by Libby'saccount of having misremembered and re-remembered Plame's identity.
Prosecutors said he lied to save his job when he told investigators he had forgotten that his boss, Cheney, told him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.
He told the investigatorshe learned of Plame's identity from Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief of NBC News, and that he had forgotten at the time he talked to Russert that Cheney had told him about her earlier. Russert testified he never told Libby about Wilson's wife.
Wells said in January his client feared he was being sacrificed to protect "the president's right-hand man," Rove.
"Mr. Libby was not concerned about losing his job in the Bush administration," the lawyer said. "He was concerned about being set up. He was concerned about being made the scapegoat."
The CBC's Neil Macdonald, reporting from Washington, said Bush had spoken out repeatedly against leaks before Plame's identity was disclosed.
"Well, you know, the leakers have been found, and not just Lewis Libby," Macdonald said."In the course of this trial, it came out that other White House officials were leaking to reporters, too.
"It was also a very bad case for reporters, a whole parade of them being forced under threat of imprisonment — one actually did go to prison — to sit up there on the witness stand and divulge sources.
"It's been a sort of a disaster all round for the political-journalistic class in Washington."
With files from the Associated Press