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Cheney Aide Indicted in CIA Leak Probe

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was indicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in connection with the investigation into who leaked the identity of a covert CIA operative two years ago. President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, has escaped legal jeopardy, at least for now, but remains under investigation.

A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Libby on a total of five criminal counts in connection with his testimony about who revealed the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Ms. Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program in order to justify the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Administration officials deny the claim.

Mr. Libby was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice, in an attempt to impede the leak probe, perjury before the grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents investigating the Plame case.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Libby resigned his post as the vice president's chief of staff shortly after word of the indictments.

Mr. Libby has previously denied that he revealed Ms. Plame's identity

The Libby indictment is a result of a two-year investigation led by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed by the Justice Department to find out who leaked Ms. Plame's identity, which under certain circumstances is a violation of federal law.

Mr. Fitzgerald is also trying to determine if the leaking of Ms. Plame's name was part of an effort by high-ranking Bush administration officials to discredit her husband, Ambassador Wilson, for speaking out on Iraq.

The Libby indictments are a blow for the Bush White House and come at a time when the president's public approval ratings are the lowest of his presidency because of concern over Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina and high fuel prices at home.

It also comes just one day after the president accepted the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers after intense opposition from some conservative leaders. Mr. Bush is expected to name a new nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor soon.

The news from federal court in Washington could have been worse for the president had Mr. Rove been indicted as well as Mr. Libby, although the prosecutor says Mr. Rove remains under investigation. Mr. Rove has also denied that he revealed Ms. Plame's identity to reporters.

Last year, the president referred to Karl Rove as the architect of his re-election victory and Mr. Rove has long been Mr. Bush's top political adviser, extending back to his days as Texas governor.

Mr. Rove appeared in a cheerful mood Friday morning in an encounter with reporters.

REPORTER: "Mr. Rove, what is your mood today?"

ROVE: "I am going to have a great Friday and a fantastic weekend and hope you do too."

Friday's grand jury action is the culmination of 22 months of investigation and testimony from several administration officials and journalists involved in the CIA leak case.

One of the reporters, Judith Miller of the New York Times, refused to testify and spent 85 days in jail for contempt of court. Ms. Miller eventually testified after she was released from a confidentiality agreement by Mr. Libby.

A trial resulting from Friday's indictments could shed new light on the secret deliberations of the Bush administration as they built a case for war against Iraq before the 2003 invasion.