Lewis I. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty today on four counts of obstructing justice and lying to a grand jury and the FBI. He was not convicted of a fifth count of lying to the FBI. Libby could be sentenced to a maximum of about 30 years in prison and fined up to $1.25 million.
The case was built around five felony charges that Libby lied to FBI agents and a grand jury when he denied leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to reporters. Plame is married to Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who wrote an op-ed piece in 2003 debunking the WMD justifications for the Iraq war. Libby supposedly leaked Plame's name as part of a White House campaign to discredit Wilson.
Though outing a CIA agent can be illegal, no one was charged with doing that to Plame. Instead, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald went after Libby for lying. Though seemingly a side issue, Fitzgerald told reporters it was like "throwing sand in the umpire's face," a serious transgression that stops investigators from doing their jobs.