Jurors didn’t buy Libby’s poor memory

first_imgThe CIA leak case focused new attention on the Bush administration’s handling of reports about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war. The case cost Cheney his most trusted adviser, and the trial revealed Cheney’s personal obsession with criticism of the war’s justification. Trial testimony made clear that President Bush secretly declassified a portion of the prewar intelligence estimate that Cheney quietly sent Libby to leak to Judith Miller of The New York Times in 2003 to rebut criticism by Wilson. More top reporters were ordered into court – including Miller after 85 days of resistance in jail – to testify about their confidential sources among the nation’s highest-ranking officials than in any other trial in recent memory. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said the verdict closed the nearly four-year investigation into how Plame’s name and her classified job at the CIA were leaked to reporters in 2003 – just days after Wilson publicly accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence. No one will be charged with the leak itself, which the trial confirmed came first from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. One juror, former Washington Post reporter Denis Collins, told reporters the jury did not believe Libby’s faulty memory defense. Juror Jeff Comer agreed. WASHINGTON – Ultimately, the jurors didn’t believe that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s closest adviser, had as bad a memory as he claimed. They convicted Libby on Tuesday of lying and obstructing a leak investigation that shook the top levels of the Bush administration. Two jurors agreed that Libby’s claim to have misremembered – not lied about – how he learned that an Iraq war critic’s wife worked at the CIA and whom he told about her simply didn’t stand up under the weight of evidence produced by prosecutors. The jury methodically analyzed government evidence that on nine occasions during four weeks of 2003, Libby either had been told by officials that war critic Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA or he had told other officials about her job. Even with a bad memory, he couldn’t have forgotten where she worked at the end of those four weeks, the jury concluded. Collins said the jurors spent a week charting the testimony and evidence on 34 poster-size pages. “There were good managerial type people on this jury who took everything apart and put it in the right place,” Collins said. “After that, it wasn’t a matter of opinion. It was just there. “Even if he forgot that someone told him about Mrs. Wilson, who had told him, it seemed very unlikely he would not have remembered about Mrs. Wilson,” Collins said. Libby, not only Cheney’s chief of staff but also an assistant to Bush, was expressionless as the verdict was announced on the 10th day of deliberations. In the front row, his wife, Harriet Grant, choked out a sob. Libby could face up to 25years in prison when sentenced June 5. Defense attorneys said they would ask for a retrial and if that fails, appeal the conviction. “We have every confidence Mr. Libby ultimately will be vindicated,” defense attorney Theodore Wells told reporters. He said that Libby was “totally innocent and that he did not do anything wrong.” Libby did not speak to reporters. In a written statement, Cheney called the verdict disappointing and said he was saddened for Libby and his family, too. “As I have said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service.” Wilson, whose wife left the CIA after she was exposed, said, “Convicting him of perjury was like convicting Al Capone of tax evasion or Alger Hiss of perjury. It doesn’t mean they were not guilty of other crimes.” Libby was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury to the grand jury and one count of lying to the FBI about how he learned Plame’s identity and whom he told. Libby learned about Plame from Cheney in June 2003, about a month after Wilson’s allegations were first published, without his name, by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Prosecutors said Libby relayed the Plame information to other government officials and told reporters, Miller of the Times and Matt Cooper of Time magazine, that she worked at the CIA. On July 6, 2003, Wilson publicly wrote that he had gone to Niger in 2002 and debunked a report that Iraq was seeking uranium there for nuclear weapons and that Cheney, who had asked about the report, should have known his findings long before Bush cited the report in 2003 as a justification for the war. On July 14, columnist Robert Novak reported that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and she, not Cheney, had suggested he go on the trip. When an investigation of the leak began, prosecutors said, Libby feared prosecution for disclosing classified information so he lied to investigators to make his discussions appear innocent. Libby swore that he was so busy he forgot Cheney had told him about Plame, and was surprised to learn it a month later from NBC reporter Tim Russert. He swore he told reporters only that he learned it from other reporters and could not confirm it. Russert, however, testified he and Libby never even discussed Plame. Libby is free pending sentencing.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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