- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Jurors deliberated yesterday without reaching a verdict on whether former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. obstructed the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA operative married to a prominent Iraq war critic.

The eight women and four men heard 14 days of testimony, a full day of closing arguments and more than an hour of instructions from U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton before beginning their discussions. After 4 hours of deliberation, the jurors went home until today.

The jurors include a former Washington Post reporter, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained economist, a retired math teacher, a former museum curator, a law firm accountant, a Web architect and several retired or current federal workers. There are 10 whites and two blacks.

Mr. Libby, who was the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, faces five felony counts that carry a combined top penalty of 30 years in prison. If convicted, Mr. Libby probably would be sentenced to far less under federal guidelines.

The trial provided behind-the-scenes details of the interaction between top reporters and government officials and of Mr. Cheney’s efforts to rebut criticism of him and the administration.

The investigation began with the public identification of CIA operative Valerie Plame on July 14, 2003, eight days after her husband, ex-ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV publicly accused the Bush administration of distorting intelligence to push the nation into war with Iraq.

Months later, Mr. Libby told the FBI and a grand jury that he first learned that Mrs. Plame worked for the CIA from Mr. Cheney on June 11. But he said that amid the press of war issues and other national security concerns he forgot that and was surprised to learn it from NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert on July 10 or 11. Thereafter, he said he told reporters he had heard the information only from journalists and could not confirm it.

Mr. Russert testified he and Mr. Libby never discussed Mrs. Plame. Judith Miller, who had been a reporter with the New York Times, testified Mr. Libby told her about Mrs. Plame’s CIA job before the Russert conversation. Matt Cooper, then of Time magazine, testified Mr. Libby confirmed her employment for him. Six government officials testified they either told Mr. Libby about Mrs. Plame’s job or discussed it with him between June 11 and July 10 or 11.

Judge Walton explained to the jurors that they must weigh the truth of several different statements by Mr. Libby in the various counts.

On the obstruction count, Judge Walton said they could find Mr. Libby guilty if they unanimously decided any one, or more, of three Libby statements were lies: that Mr. Russert asked Mr. Libby if Mrs. Plame worked at CIA and said all the reporters knew it, that Mr. Libby was surprised to learn the Mrs. Plame information from Mr. Russert or that Mr. Libby told Mr. Cooper he’d heard it from reporters but didn’t know it was true.

On one count of lying to the FBI, jurors could find Mr. Libby guilty if they found either or both of his statements about the Russert call were lies, Judge Walton explained.

On two counts of perjury, jurors would have to weigh various Libby statements to the grand jury about how he learned about Mrs. Plame’s job and whom he told, Judge Walton said.

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