Riding Scooter: Background to the latest WestWing controversy

By Larry Margasak and Pete Yost
WASHINGTON, Oct 30 - The prosecution’s conclusion: US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff zealously pursued information about a critic who said the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq.
The view of the president and vice-president: Lewis Scooter'' Libby is a dedicated public servant who has worked tirelessly on behalf of his country. Is Libby an influential White House adviser who lied? Or is he a man with a hectic schedule who happens to remember events differently from the reporters and administration figures who will eventually be called to testify against him? As lawyers, we recognise that a person’s recollection and memory of events will not always match those of other people, particularly when they are asked to testify months after the events occurred,’’ Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate, said in a statement.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald drew his detailed portrait of Libby based on a two-year investigation that pulled dozens of witnesses in for questioning, including President George W Bush and Cheney.
Libby, the indictment against him concludes, received information from Cheney, the State Department and the CIA about covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose husband was attacking an administration unable to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Libby then spread the information to reporters and later concocted a story that his information had come from reporters, the indictment says.
The other portrait of Libby, the favourable version, shows a deeply committed conservative who has been a player on the Washington scene since the early days of the Reagan administration.
Libby left the White House for the last time on Friday, departing after seeing some of the ideas he and others championed become administration policy.
In 1992, Libby and former Pentagon deputy Paul Wolfowitz wrote a paper favouring the use of pre-emptive force to prevent countries from developing weapons of mass destruction.
The paper later won praise from the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, which called it a blueprint for maintaining US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival''. Fitzgerald spent 22 months on the investigation at a cost of more than $1 million. In the end, Libby was charged with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines. The starting point was Bush's claim in his State of the Union address in January 2003 that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium from the African nation of Niger as part of an effort to develop weapons of mass destruction. Bush took the United States to war with Iraq in March 2003, saying Saddam's banned weapons program threatened the US. When no such weapons turned up, the administration was put on the defensive. Wilson, a former ambassador, had gone to Niger in 2002 for the CIA to investigate the uranium claim. He found no evidence to back up an allegation of a sales agreement between Iraq and Niger. Wilson's wife, Plame, was the covert CIA officer whose name was leaked in July 2003 as the debate about the war heated up. The indictment alleges Libby had information from at least seven government officials, including the vice-president, about Plame and her CIA status. Libby said he heard it first from reporters. The indictment said Libby spread information to the media. Fitzgerald summed up the charges: At the end of the day what appears is that 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. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterward, under oath and repeatedly.’’
Libby’s case has been assigned to US District Judge Reggie Walton, nominated by Bush in 2001.