A federal jury this week convicted former vice presidential chief of staff Lewis 'œScooter' Libby of perjury and obstruction of justice for his role in the leak of an undercover CIA agent's identity. The jury found that Libby lied to the FBI and the grand jury investigating the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, questioned the rationale for the war in Iraq after returning from a CIA fact-finding mission. Libby had claimed he learned of Plame's identity from reporters, but was contradicted during the trial by several journalists. It also emerged that White House aide Karl Rove had talked to reporters about Plame, while Vice President Dick Cheney himself had orchestrated the response to Wilson's claims.
Libby's defense centered on the claim that his incorrect statements were the innocent mistakes of a busy official. But several jurors said after the trial that they were convinced that his faulty claims were intentional. Conservatives immediately called on President Bush to pardon Libby, but a White House spokesman called any talk of a pardon 'œwildly speculative.' Libby faces up to 25 years in prison, though legal experts say the sentence is more likely to be in the two-year range. His lawyers plan to appeal.
Scooter Libby was the defendant, but it was Cheney who was really on trial, said The Boston Globe in an editorial. 'œThe jurorsand the publicknow that the case is about an attempt by the vice president to discredit a former government official who had the audacity to challenge false statements about the war.' The verdict leaves a dark cloud over the White House.
Which is why, when the time is right, Bush must pardon Libby, said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. For nearly four years, we've heard hysterical claims that the administration ruthlessly outed Plame to punish her husband. We now know that she was inadvertently identified when White House officials were defending themselves against Wilson's public criticism. Unless Bush pardons Libby, 'œhe will implicitly be accepting' his critics' harshest claimsthat 'œBush lied and people died.'