In the highest-ranking conviction of a White House official since the Iran-Contra scandal, Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been found guilty of lying and obstructing an investigation into the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame. On the 10th day of deliberations, a jury found Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff guilty of two counts of perjury, one count of making false statements, and one count of obstruction of justice. Libby faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. Libby’s attorney, Theodore Wells, vowed to seek a new trial.
Theodore Wells: “We believe, as we said at the time of his indictment, that he is totally innocent, totally innocent, and that he did not do anything wrong, and we intend to keep fighting to establish his innocence.”
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald oversaw the case against Libby. He spoke after the verdict.
Patrick Fitzgerald: “The jury was obviously convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had lied and obstructed justice about a serious matter. The results are actually sad. It’s sad that we had a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of the vice president, obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that had not happened, but it did.”
Fitzgerald went on to say he will not seek new charges against other White House officials. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on President Bush to promise he won’t pardon Libby. White House spokesperson Dana Perino was asked about the possibility.
White House spokesperson Dana Perino: “Well I’m aware of no such request for a pardon, and as is afforded to all Americans, there is a process that is followed in which to apply for a pardon, and I don’t think that speculating on a wildly hypothetical situation at this time is appropriate.”
At least one juror said the case should have gone beyond Libby. Speaking to reporters, Denis Collins said, “It was said a number of times, 'What are we doing with this guy here? Where's [Karl] Rove]?’ … We’re not saying we didn’t think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of, but it seemed like … he was the fall guy.” More on the Libby verdict after headlines.
In Iraq, at least 112 people were killed Tuesday in a double-suicide bombing of a Shiite procession in Hilla. Another 150 were wounded. The victims were gathering ahead of the close of a Shiite ritual period this weekend. Another 24 people were killed in related attacks across Iraq.
Meanwhile in Washington, President Bush addressed Iraq at a speech before the American Legion.
President Bush: “Iraqi and U.S. forces are making gradual and important progress almost every day, and we will remain steadfast until our objectives are achieved.”
President Bush’s comments come as a new poll shows a record six out of 10 Americans believe the Iraq War has been a mistake. According to the Gallup/USA Today survey, the same number want a U.S. withdrawal within a year. Just 13 percent favor sending more troops.
A U.S. Army medic who refused to fight in Iraq has been sentenced to eight months in prison. Agustin Aguayo went AWOL last year just before he was to return to Iraq for a second deployment. He had made several unsuccessful requests for conscientious objector status.
Aguayo’s attorney David Court: “We are both very grateful that the military judge gave a relatively light sentence. As you all know, he could have done seven years based upon the findings. I believe that based upon his sentence of only eight months, he accepts that Aguayo believes that he is a conscientious objector.”
David Court expects Aguayo to serve six more weeks of his sentence because he’s already been jailed for 161 days. The military hearing was held in Germany, where Aguayo’s unit is based. Kelly Dougherty of Iraq Veterans Against the War was there to support Aguayo.
Kelly Dougherty: “While Agustin is first and foremost a man who is sincerely and morally opposed to war in all forms, he is also a proud example to other soldiers who are also questioning the war in Iraq and who feel like they might want to refuse or they might want to apply for conscientious objector or in some way object and resist this war in Iraq.”
In a statement, Amnesty International said Aguayo is a legitimate conscientious objector who should not be imprisoned for his beliefs. Democracy Now! interviewed Aguayo and his wife Helga the day before he turned himself in to a California base last September.
Agustin Aguayo: “It’s not my job to decide who’s going to live or who’s going to die. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with morally and that I’m convinced of. Nothing is more clear in my mind that war is wrong. And I won’t be a tool of war anymore. And the end result of war is the destruction of human life, and governments use that to solve problems. And I think it’s a great tragedy of our lifetime, with so much technology, that we still feel that that solves problems.”
In Afghanistan, protests continued Tuesday over a pair of U.S. military attacks that killed at least 25 people on Sunday. At least 2,000 people blocked a main road leading to the capital Kabul. The protests came as NATO forces launched a major operation against Taliban fighters.
Meanwhile, a veteran Italian journalist has been kidnapped in southern Afghanistan. Daniele Mastrogiacomo is a correspondent for La Repubblica. He’s believed to be in the hands of Taliban captors.
Iran has made public a new offer to negotiate directly with the International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear program. The Associated Press reports Iran says it’s ready to discuss outstanding issues without interference from the U.N. Security Council. The Security Council has rejected previous Iranian efforts because Iran has rejected a precondition to suspend uranium enrichment before talks begin.
Meanwhile, the United States and North Korea are in their third day of talks today. The two sides are discussing normalizing diplomatic relations for the first time in 50 years. North Korea agreed to abandon part of its nuclear program last month. On Tuesday, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill addressed the progress so far.
Christopher Hill: “Obviously we will have continuing differences with North Korea, but I think getting rid of the nuclear aspirations is a very good start, and I know that we could have a relationship with them, albeit a relationship where we will have disagreements on a number of issues as we do with countries throughout the world, but nonetheless, I think a relationship that can move forward.”
On Capitol Hill, six former U.S. attorneys testified Tuesday as part of an investigation into their controversial dismissals from the Justice Department. Each of the attorneys said they received improper contact from government officials or members of Congress both before and after they were asked to resign. In new developments, former Washington state prosecutor John McKay revealed he was contacted by the chief of staff to Republican Congressmember Doc Hastings about an inquiry into voter fraud in the state’s 2004 gubernatorial election. McKay said he ended the call because he found it inappropriate. Another former U.S. attorney, David Iglesias of New Mexico, revealed last week that he was fired after he resisted pressure by two Republican members of Congress to complete a corruption investigation involving Democrats ahead of the November elections. Senator Pete Domenici and Congresswoman Heather Wilson have admitted calling Iglesias but denied they were pressuring or threatening him. Senator Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “If the allegations are correct, there has been serious misconduct in what has occurred.”
A whistleblower who helped reveal government spying on the Internet has discovered the Los Angeles Times aborted breaking the story at the request of the Bush administration. The whisteblower, Mark Klein, is a former technician at AT&T. Last year, Klein revealed the National Security Agency had set up secret spy rooms in several AT&T offices. In an interview with ABC News, Klein says he worked with an L.A. Times reporter for two months to reveal the secret program. But Klein says editors killed the story at the request of then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and then-NSA Director General Michael Hayden. He then went to The New York Times.
The Bush administration has announced it will not seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council for the second straight year. The administration opposed the council’s formation as a replacement to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights last year. U.S. officials say the council has lost credibility and is biased against Israel.
A new report has put the number of journalists killed in the last decade at more than 1,000. The International News Safety Institute says nearly half were killed by gunfire, and most died in their home countries. Iraq and Russia were the deadliest countries.
In Europe, new polls show majority opposition to the U.S. missile defense shield in the two countries that have been asked to host parts of it on their soil. In the Czech Republic, 61 percent say they oppose construction of a U.S. missile base. In Poland, 55 percent are opposed. Both governments of Poland the Czech Republic have said they’re like to approve the request to host a U.S. missile facility.
The state of Washington has filed a lawsuit over a Bush administration regulation that strips automatic Medicaid coverage to children born to undocumented immigrants. Babies of undocumented workers were previously insured if the mother was covered during birth. Under the new policy, parents must file applications for the child and provide documents to prove his or her citizenship. The Washington state lawsuit says the rule increases healthcare costs and violates infants’ constitutional rights to the same services as all Americans.
And in the latest update on a story Democracy Now! has been covering, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against U.S. government officials on behalf of 10 children held at an immigration jail in Texas. The ACLU says the children have been subjected to inhumane treatment as their families await immigration decisions. The suit names Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and six immigration and customs officials. Some 400 people are detained at the Hutto facility in Taylor, Texas. Around half of them are children. Hutto is owned by the private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America.