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 as he told investigators, the jury concluded.

Libby is 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.

The CIA leak case focused new attention on the Bush administration’s much-criticized handling of intelligence 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. Bush, Cheney and Libby were the only three people in the government aware of the effort.

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.

“The results are actually sad,” Fitzgerald told reporters after the verdict. “It’s sad that we had a situation where a high-level official person who worked in the office of the vice president obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened, but it did.”

One juror, former Washington Post reporter Denis Collins, told reporters the jury did not believe Libby’s faulty memory defense. Juror Jeff Comer agreed.

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 and her head sank.

Libby could face up to 25 years in prison when sentenced June 5, but federal sentencing guidelines will probably prescribe far less, perhaps one to three years. 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.

The president watched news of the verdict on television at the White House. Deputy press secretary Dana Perino said Bush respected the jury’s verdict but “was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family.”

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.”

Trending Video

Recommended for you