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Prosecution Wraps Up in CIA Leak Trial


The prosecution has finished presenting its case against former White House official Lewis Libby. Libby faces perjury charges in connection with the investigation into who revealed the covert status of former CIA officer Valerie Plame back in 2003. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the Libby trial from Washington.

Libby is the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby stands accused of lying to a grand jury and to prosecutors about how and when he learned of the identity of former CIA covert officer Valerie Plame.

Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the Bush administration of twisting pre-war intelligence about Iraq's mass weapons capabilities.

The final prosecution witness in the case was noted NBC political analyst and show host Tim Russert. Russert has denied Libby's contention that Libby first learned of Valerie Plame's identity in a phone call with Russert. Russert told the court he was not aware of Plame's identity until he read about her in a newspaper column in July of 2003, days after his phone conversations with Libby.

Defense lawyers for Libby sought to challenge Russert's credibility when they questioned him on the witness stand. Russert is known for his aggressive questioning of politicians on his weekly NBC program, Meet the Press.

Russert is one of several prosecution witnesses who cast doubt on Libby's contention that he first learned about Plame from journalists.

Libby's defense lawyers will now get an opportunity to present their side of the case. Their main argument is that Libby was busy with a number of other important issues during the time in question and simply failed to remember his interactions with journalists about Valerie Plame.

Libby faces charges of lying, perjury and obstruction of justice. But he has not been charged in connection with the leaking of Plame's identity as a covert officer, which under certain circumstances violates federal law.

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald contends Libby revealed Plame's identity to journalists in an attempt to discredit her husband, Ambassador Wilson, and his criticisms of the Bush administration.

The Libby trial has also shed new light on one of Washington's oldest traditions, how journalists depend on government officials to privately leak information.

George Washington University law expert Jonathan Turley says the trial shows a side of official Washington rarely seen by the public. "This is a city that has a great deal of hypocrisy, and this case is going to show that. It is going to show government officials who appear to have lied and sought to destroy whistleblowers (people who expose wrongdoing). It is going to show journalists who appear to have lied to the public or even their own editors. All of it is a rather sordid mess and it fits this city well," he said.

The Libby defense team is expected to present its case next week.