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Former White House Official Sentenced to Prison in CIA Leak Case

A former high-ranking White House staffer has been sentenced to 30 months in prison after being convicted of lying to investigators probing the high-profile case of a CIA agent whose identity was leaked to the news media. Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

In addition to jail time, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, has been fined $250,000 and given a two-year probationary period at the end of his incarceration.

Before issuing the sentence, Federal Judge Reggie Walton acknowledged Libby's long and distinguished career of public service, but rejected the defense's plea for leniency.

Libby's attorneys pointed out that neither Libby nor anyone else has been charged for leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame - the original offense that triggered the probe and led investigators to question Libby. But the judge said people in high positions have a special responsibility to the nation, and the obstruction of justice cannot be condoned.

Judge Walton has a reputation for tough sentences, according to the former head of the anti-corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, Randall Eliason, who spoke with VOA.

"I think Judge Walton clearly agreed with the arguments that this is a serious case," said Randall Eliason. "You have a very senior government official in the White House convicted by a jury of lying to the FBI and lying to a criminal grand jury about a case involving possible leaks of national security information."

Appearing composed and showing little emotion, Libby left the courthouse without comment. He is expected to appeal his conviction.

Plame's occupation first surfaced in 2003, in a newspaper column written by political commentator Robert Novak. Plame is married to former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's initial justification for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Prosecutors argued Plame's CIA identity was leaked to Novak as part of a White House effort to discredit her husband, and that Libby deliberately misled authorities who investigated the leak. Defense attorneys said Libby could not recall details of what he might have told reporters about Plame.

The White House has declined to comment on whether a presidential pardon for Libby might be forthcoming.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration.