How Did 'Scooter' Libby Get That Nickname?

Nov. 3, 2005 — -- Thank you for e-mailing questions about the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who faces five charges for his involvement in the investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity. Here with answers to a selection of your questions are ABC News reporters Jonathan Karl and Jason Ryan from Washington.

Steve in Kansas asks: Will the Libby trial be seen by the general public on television or heard on radio?

Ryan: There are no TV cameras or recording devices allowed inside federal courthouses.

Michael in Denver asks: Hi, this seems like it should be an obvious question, but what is the status of the journalist Robert Novak, being that Libby and company leaked Plame's name to Novak, but it was Novak who published it to the world?

Karl: Revealing the name of a covert agent is only a crime if the person knows the agent is covert and that the government is actively trying to protect the agent's identity. Nobody has suggested that Novak knew Valerie Plame was an undercover agent. Also, Novak does not have security clearances, so the crime would have been committed by whoever gave him the information.

Ryan: It is an obvious but great question that Mr. Novak or his attorney, James Hamilton have failed to answer. Fitzgerald has said he can't comment on this matter.

Coleen in Michigan asks: Is there a deal in the works for Libby to flip on Karl Rove, (for a lighter sentence)? Is that why Rove was not indicted?

Ryan: Fitzgerald said that this is an ongoing investigation even through the grand jury's term expired. Prosecutors can always get a superseding indictment but it may be too early to speculate on whether they will try to exact a plea deal.

Beckham in Vancouver asks: Why such a harsh potential penalty for the "crime" that Libby is alleged to have committed. Even if the charges were deliberate exposure of a covert government operative with malicious intent, it seems that given the nebulous nature of Valerie Plame's "secret agent" status, and the obvious lack of effect it has had on her lifestyle (other than getting a spread in Vogue), the potential consequences seem overly harsh. You don't get 30 years for murder in most instances.

Ryan: Obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators and a grand jury is a very serious crime, the penalties are stiff to act as a deterrent. As Fitzgerald said the other day, Libby is charged with perjury in response to a grand juror's question. The message the Justice Department wants to convey -- don't lie to federal investigators or members of the public that sit and serve on grand juries.

Karl: The harsh potential penalty Libby faces has nothing to do with revealing Valerie Plame's identity. He has been charged for allegedly lying to federal investigators and to a grand jury. These alleged crimes took place months after the outing of Valerie Plame.

Jennifer in North Carolina asks: I read Libby's indictment. It said that he learned that Plame was a CIA operative from Cheney. If one of the goals of the investigation was to find out who Libby learned it from, what does this mean for the vice president?

Karl: Both Libby and Cheney would have the appropriate security clearances to know Valerie Plame's identity. If all Cheney did was discuss her job with Libby (who served as both his chief of staff and national security adviser), he did not do anything wrong.

Alan in Ontario asks: It seems that attention is focused on Rove's and Libby's testimony before the grand jury and not on who leaked the classified information about Valerie Plame's identity. If leaking info about Plame was only unethical, why did people lie to cover their tracks?

Ryan: I think Fitzgerald answered this best on Friday, Oct. 28 saying, "As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his [Libby] motives were, I can't tell you … On the actual obstruction of justice charge, Fitzgerald said, "the harm of an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the very fine judgments we want to make," about the leaking of Plame's name and if it was a violation of law.

Brendalee in Florida asks: How did Libby get the nickname "Scooter"?

Karl: Libby has offered different explanations for his nickname. In 2002, he told The New York Times his father gave him the nickname after seeing him crawl across his crib. He has also said that the name comes from a comparison to former Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto.

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