Former Cheney aide jailed for 2 years in CIA leak case

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby becomes highest-ranking US official convicted of a crime since the Iran-Contra affair in the mid-1980s.

libby 88 (photo credit: )
libby 88
(photo credit: )
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced to 2 years in prison Tuesday for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation. Libby stood calmly before a packed courtroom as a federal judge said the evidence overwhelmingly proved his guilt. The highest-ranking US official convicted of a crime since the Iran-Contra affair in the mid-1980s, Libby was found guilty in March of lying to investigators about what he told reporters regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame. Her identity was leaked to reporters in 2003 after her husband began criticizing the Bush administration's war policies. Neither Libby nor anyone else eventually was charged for leaking Plame's name. "People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," US District Judge Reggie B. Walton said. Libby was little known outside Washington circles but was one of the most powerful figures in the White House, a major figure in helping shape President George W. Bush's war policies. Libby's indictment in 2005 was a blow to the Bush administration at a time that popular support for the Iraq war was waning and leading Republicans were immersed in congressional scandals. Bush, who can pardon convicted felons, plans no such intervention now, spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "The president said he felt terrible for the family, especially for his wife and kids," Perino said, but Bush wants to review Walton's decision before commenting further. Walton did not set a date for Libby to report to prison. Although he saw no reason to let Libby remain free pending appeal, Walton said he would accept written arguments on the issue and rule later. Libby has steadfastly maintained his innocence of the lying and obstruction charges that brought him down. With letters of support from several former military commanders and White House and State Department officials, Libby asked for no jail time. His supporters, including former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited a government career in which Libby helped win the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War. Probation officers had recommended a sentencing range of 15-21 months, but left open the possibility that defense attorneys could argue for less jail time. Walton also fined Libby $250,000 and placed him on probation for two years after his release from prison. The judge put the sentence on hold until he could hear legal analysis from probation officials about the way the sentence was structured technically. Walton said he would make the sentence official next week. "It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life," Libby said in brief remarks to the judge. "He has fallen from public grace," defense attorney Theodore Wells said. "It is a tragic fall, a tragic fall." Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had recommended a sentence of up to three years in prison. "We need to make the statement that the truth matters ever so much," Fitzgerald said. In Libby's trial, jurors said they did not believe his main defense: that he had not lied but rather had a bad memory. Their decisions made Libby 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. Iran-Contra involved clandestine arms sales to Iran and illegal funneling of the proceeds to a rebel movement in Latin America. The CIA leak debacle cost Cheney his most trusted adviser, and the trial revealed Cheney's personal obsession with criticism of the Iraq war's justification. It was Cheney who first revealed Plame's identity to Libby in June 2003 after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, began questioning the administration's prewar intelligence. Several other officials testified that they, too, discussed the CIA operative with Libby as Wilson's criticism mounted.