- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

The vice president’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., was indicted yesterday on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in the CIA leak investigation. He immediately resigned and left the White House.

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said Mr. Libby lied “under oath and repeatedly” when he testified before a federal grand jury about his conversations with three reporters regarding the identity of a CIA employee.

Mr. Libby, who could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted, resigned minutes after the five-count indictment was filed and later said, “I am confident that at the end of this process I will be completely and totally exonerated.”

Vice President Dick Cheney said that his longtime aide would “fight the charges brought against him.”

Despite speculation in the days leading up to yesterday’s grand jury action, no other Bush administration official was indicted. Senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, who many Washington pundits predicted would be indicted, emerged unscathed, although the prosecutor said his probe was “not over.” But Mr. Fitzgerald added that the “substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded.”

In addition, Mr. Fitzgerald, whose job was to probe whether there was an “unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity,” was unable to find enough evidence to indict anyone on that charge. He also made no indictments regarding leaks of classified information.

After a frenetic day and just before he departed for a weekend at Camp David, President Bush praised Mr. Libby, saying he “worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country.”

But Mr. Bush did not predict that the vice president’s top adviser would be found not guilty after a trial, instead saying, “in our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.”

The president, ending one of his worst weeks in the White House — with the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers and the 2,000th death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq — said Mr. Libby’s indictment will not distract him.

“While we’re all saddened by today’s news, we remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country,” Mr. Bush said. “I got a job to do, and so do the people who work in the White House. We got a job to protect the American people, and that’s what we’ll continue working hard to do.”

The indictments accuse Mr. Libby of lying to FBI agents who interviewed him on Oct. 14, 2003, and Nov. 26, 2003, committing perjury while testifying under oath to the grand jury twice in March 2004, and engaging in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury’s investigation.

Yesterday’s charges stem from a two-year investigation into whether administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame or misled investigators about their involvement. Mrs. Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was sent to Niger at his wife’s urging and later became a vocal critic of the president’s assertions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Libby testified that he first learned Mrs. Plame’s name from reporters, but NBC’s Tim Russert, Time magazine’s Matt Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller all said otherwise.

“Mr. Libby’s story that he was at the tail-end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And he lied about it afterward, under oath, repeatedly.”

The prosecutor said in an hourlong press conference at the Justice Department that instead of reporters first telling Mr. Libby about Mrs. Plame’s identity, “at least four people within the government” told the vice president’s chief of staff about her job at the CIA and identified her as “Wilson’s wife.”

The indictments show that Mr. Libby began seeking information about Mr. Wilson and his wife in late May 2003, about six weeks before Mrs. Plame’s identity was first publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, newspaper column by Robert Novak. Mr. Fitzgerald said Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter Mrs. Plame’s name when he talked to Miss Miller in June 2003.

While Mr. Fitzgerald did not indict anyone for illegally revealing Mrs. Plame’s CIA status, he said that “not only was it classified,” but her “friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.”

He said it does not matter whether Mrs. Plame was “covert,” but added that indicting Mr. Libby on a charge that he violated the Intelligence Identity Protection Act was impossible.

“We have not made any allegation that Mr. Libby knowingly and intentionally outed a covert agent. … And I think knowing that he gave the information to someone who was outside the government not entitled to receive it, and knowing that the information was classified, is not enough,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

“You need to know at the time that he transmitted the information he appreciated that it was classified information, that he knew it or acted, you know, in certain statutes with recklessness.” Mr. Fitzgerald said that could not be determined.

Democrats sought to turn Mr. Libby’s indictment into an indictment of the president’s pre-war contention that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

“This case is bigger than the leak of highly classified information,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “It is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president.”

But Mr. Fitzgerald said, “This indictment is not about the war.

“Anyone who’s concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn’t look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that. They will be frustrated,” he said.

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