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Former White House Aide Libby Convicted In CIA Case

Lewis "Scooter" Libby (file photo) (epa) WASHINGTON, March 6, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S. jury has convicted former top White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby of obstruction, perjury, and lying to the FBI.

Libby was found guilty in a Washington court in a case stemming from an FBI investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Libby was U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff until 2005.

Public Criticism Of Bush

He resigned following charges that he hindered a government investigation into who revealed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Libby is now the highest ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal under President Ronald Reagan in the mid-1980s.

Plame is the wife of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, who criticized U.S. President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy.

Wilson has accused the Bush administration of leaking his wife's identity to get revenge on him for saying publicly that the administration had twisted intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Libby was not charged for leaking the name of a CIA operative. Such a disclosure can be a federal crime.

Lying Under Oath

With the verdict, Libby becomes the highest ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal under then-President Ronald Reagan in the mid-1980s.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said he was gratified by the jury's decision.

"It's sad that we had a situation where a high level official -- a person who worked in the office of the vice president -- obstructed justice and lied under oath," he said. "We wish that had not happened, but it did, and I want to thank the colleagues and investigators behind me who worked hard to make sure we brought that to light and brought it to court and proved it beyond a reasonable doubt, and we are gratified by the jury's verdict."

Fitzgerald said the charges were extremely serious because they involved the foundation of the American judicial system -- telling the truth under sworn oath.

"The nature of any person telling a lie under oath to a grand jury is a serious problem," he said. "Having someone, a high-level official do that under oath in a national security investigation is something that can never be acceptable, and that just made it mandatory that we pursue it."

Appeal Planned

Libby, who was acquitted of one count of lying to the FBI, had no reaction to the verdict.

His lawyer, Theodore Wells, expressed disappointment.

"Despite our disappointment in the jurors' verdict, we believe in the American justice system, and we believe in the jury system," Wells said.

Libby, who has maintained his innocence, could receive more than 25 years in prison. Under federal guidelines, however, he is likely to face a less severe sentencing, if the conviction is upheld.

Wells said the conviction will be challenged. "We intend to file a motion for new trial, and if that is denied, we will appeal the conviction, and we have every confidence that, ultimately, Mr. Libby will be vindicated," he said.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered a pre-sentencing report be completed by May 15. Libby will remain free while awaiting sentencing, which is set for June 5.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters that Bush watched the news of the Libby verdict live on television in the Oval Office of the White House.

"[President Bush] said that he respected the jury's verdict, that he was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family," Perino said.

One of Bush's campaign promises when he ran for president in 2000 was to promote the highest ethical standards by his administration.