Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby pushed case for war


Libby pushed case for war

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, has been a quiet yet powerful force in shaping the Bush administration's policies and helped build the case for the Iraq invasion.

Libby, 55, resigned on Friday after he was indicted on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice in the probe of the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to reporters.

Cheney said in a statement that he felt "deep regret" in accepting the resignation of Libby, a former attorney known by colleagues for his analytical mind and loyalty to his boss.

A specialist in national security, Libby had logged long hours in his office near the West Wing of the White House, steeping himself in subjects like counterterrorism, bioweapons defense and energy policy.

Libby held three titles: chief of staff and national security adviser to the vice president and assistant to President George W. Bush -- a sign of his broad influence.

But outside the halls of power, Libby has a literary side -- he published a mystery novel, "The Apprentice," in 1996.

Set in rural Japan in 1903, the book was praised by Publishers Weekly for achieving "a sense of mystery and claustrophobia through pared-down prose and minimalist characterization."

Libby goes by his nickname, "Scooter," but many people also refer to him as Dick Cheney's Dick Cheney.

"He is to the vice president what the vice president is to the president," said Mary Matalin, who worked with Libby as an adviser to Cheney during Bush's first term.

She described Libby as a deep thinker and problem-solver who gives "discreet advice."

Libby shares the vice president's hawkish views on national security and his penchant for operating behind the scenes.

"He doesn't grandstand," said World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, Libby's friend and mentor.


While Libby is rarely quoted in the press, his private conversations with reporters became a focus of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Plame case.

Among those he spoke to was New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who testified in the case and spent 85 days in jail for initially refusing to reveal her source.

Central to the five-count indictment against Libby is his involvement in the response to diplomat Joseph Wilson's accusation that the administration twisted the facts to justify the Iraq war. Wilson is Plame's husband.

In the war's run-up, according to journalist Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack," Libby presented a document to top officials citing evidence of weapons of mass destruction and possible contacts between Iraqi officials and a ringleader of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The weapons were never found and the administration has since backed away from the idea of a connection between Saddam's government and the September 11 attacks.

Libby got his nickname Scooter as a child after the Yankees baseball player Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto. Born in Connecticut, he attended Phillips Academy, a private school in Massachusetts.

He graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and has a law degree from Columbia University.

At Yale, Libby took a political science course with Wolfowitz, who tapped him to serve in the State Department in the Reagan administration and later in the Pentagon.

Wilson has said he believed Libby was part of a White House campaign to "smear" him. But Wolfowitz said Libby has never been "a rabidly partisan political type."

"There is a difference between people who focus on policy and people who believe it's my party right or wrong -- that's not Scooter," he said.

Before he worked for Cheney, Libby was a managing partner at the international law firm Dechert, Price and Rhoads.

One of his clients was Marc Rich, the billionaire fugitive pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

Libby has two children with his wife, Harriet Grant, a former lawyer on the Democratic staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition to writing, he likes to ski.

A September letter that Libby sent to Miller in jail showed his literary side. Urging her to testify, he wrote: "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life."