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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Libby, I. Lewis “Scooter”


  • Hudson Institute: Senior Vice President

    Former Chief of Staff to VP Dick Cheney

    • Project for the New American Century: Founding Signatory

  • Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

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    I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff who was convicted in connection with the federal investigation into the PlameGate affair, is senior vice president of the neoconservative Hudson Institute.[1]

    According to his bio page on the Hudson website, which fails to mention his conviction on charges of lying to government investigators, Libby “guides the Institute's program on national security and defense issues, devoting particular attention to U.S. national security strategy, strategic planning, the future of Asia, the Middle East, and the war against Islamic radicalism.”[2]


    A long-standing member of the clique of hardliners and neoconservatives who pushed for the Iraq War, Libby was convicted in March 2007 on charges of lying to government investigators probing the leak of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Among the charges were two counts of perjury, one count of making false statements, and one of obstruction of justice.

    Before former State Department official Richard Armitage acknowledged in September 2006 that he was the source of the leak, both Libby and the president's Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove were frequently rumored to have been the initial source of the leak. As the Los Angeles Timesreported in October 2005, "Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff [Libby] was so angry about the public statements of former Amb. Joseph C. Wilson IV, a Bush administration critic married to an undercover CIA officer [Plame], that he monitored all of Wilson's television appearances and urged the White House to mount an aggressive public campaign against him, former aides say."[3]

    "While other administration officials were maintaining a careful distance from Wilson in 2004," reported the Times, "Libby ordered up a compendium of information that could be used to rebut Wilson's claims that the administration had 'twisted' intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq before the U.S. invasion. Libby pressed the administration to publicly counter Wilson, sparking a debate with other White House officials who thought the tactic would call more attention to the former diplomat and his criticisms."[4]

    Those efforts by Libby began shortly after Wilson went public with his criticisms in 2003, but they continued well into 2004—after the Justice Department began investigating whether administration officials had illegally disclosed Plame's identity.

    Libby testified to a grand jury that he had met with New York Timesreporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and mentioned Plame. Wilson had gone to Niger in 2002 to investigate claims that uranium yellowcake was sold to Iraq; he determined that the story was false. Miller, who in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion uncritically reported claims by administration figures that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, spent three months in federal prison for refusing to reveal the identity of her sources about Plame's identity. (Miller did not write an article that named Plame, but was thought to have information regarding the case.) She left jail and agreed to testify after receiving a personal waiver from Libby, in which the beleaguered former insider wrote: "Out West, where you vacation, the aspen will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them. Come back to work—and life."[5]

    On October 28, 2005, a federal grand jury charged Libby with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury, and making false statements to FBI agents. Soon after the announcement of the indictment, Cheney accepted Libby's resignation and named John Hannah as his new national security adviser and David Addington as his new chief of staff.

    Just before Libby was to begin serving his 30-month prison sentence, President George W. Bush commuted the sentence, arguing that it was excessive. The commutation, which left in tact the federal conviction as well as a fine of more than $250,000, drew widespread criticism from across the political spectrum.

    David Dow, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, compared Bush's decision on Libby to his failure to act while governor of Texas on cases where death row inmates requested commutation on grounds of negligent court representation, mental retardation, or having committed their crimes while minors. Wrote Dow: "I. Lewis Libby Jr. had the best lawyers money can buy. His crime cannot be attributed to youth or retardation. He has expressed no remorse whatsoever for lying to a grand jury or participating in the administration's effort to mislead the American people about the war in Iraq. President Bush's commutation of Mr. Libby's sentence is certainly legal, but it just as surely offends the fundamental constitutional value of equality. Because President Bush signed a commutation, a rich and powerful man will spend not a day in prison, while 57 poor and poorly connected human beings died because Governor Bush refused to lift a pen for them."[6]

    Because of his conviction felony charges, Libby’s license to practice law was suspended in Pennsylvania and in the District of Columbia.[7]

    At Hudson

    Shortly after his resignation from the Bush administration, in January 2006, Libby joined the Hudson Institute as a senior adviser, focusing on Asia and the war on terror. However, his post was short-lived. Reported Salon.com in May 2007, “Libby was indeed a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, but he apparently resigned the day after his conviction. Strangely, as far as we can tell only one other outlet, the National Journal, ever reported his resignation. He's still hanging out with Hudson, though—two weeks after he resigned, the New York Postreported that Libby sat in the front row for a speech given by his old boss, Cheney, to Hudson Institute members.”[8]

    Hudson rehired Libby at some point after 2007, and without fanfare or public announcement, he was appointed senior vice president of the institute, a position he still held as of August 2010.

    Track Record

    Until October 2005, when he resigned after the announcement of the federal indictment against him, Libby was Cheney's closest adviser and a key advocate of the neoconservative line in U.S. foreign affairs within the Office of the Vice President (OVP). Remarking on Libby's influence within the OVP, Bob Woodward wrote in his 2006 book, State of Denial: "Cheney was lost without Libby, many of the vice president's close associates felt. Libby had done so much of the preparation for the vice president's meetings and events, and so much of the hard work. He had been almost part of Cheney's brain."[9]

    Libby was closely associated with the clique of hardline and neoconservative advisers that was instrumental in shaping the foreign policy of the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11. However, unlike many of his fellow neocons, who tend to be prolific writers, the closest thing to a paper trail revealing Libby's views on U.S. defense and foreign policy is the now-infamous 1992 draft Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), a controversial defense blueprint created by the few neoconservatives—including Libby—in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. The draft DPG seems to have been a major influence on the evolution of neoconservative thinking during the 1990s.

    Like many other neoconservatives who populated the administration of President George W. Bush, Libby first entered government service during the Reagan years. While a student at Yale, Libby studied under Paul Wolfowitz, who became his political mentor and shepherded him into the ranks of the Republican Party's foreign policy elite.

    In 1981 Libby joined the State Department, where he worked under Wolfowitz on the Policy Planning Staff in the Office of the Secretary. A year later, when Wolfowitz moved over to the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Libby also transferred, serving as the bureau's director of special projects. During the Bush Senior administration, Libby worked at the Pentagon under Wolfowitz and then-Secretary of Defense Cheney. Libby became Vice President Cheney's chief of staff in 2001, after the younger Bush took office.

    A lawyer by training, arguably Libby's most famous client, whom he represented from the mid-1980s to 2000, was Marc Rich, the billionaire financier convicted on racketeering and tax fraud charges who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

    In 2001, Libby returned to government service as chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, who also named Libby as his assistant for National Security Affairs. From 2001 to 2005, the vice president's office became, along with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's top staff, one of the key hubs of influence over foreign and military policy, sidelining the CIA and the State Department—government agencies considered inimical to the policy agenda of the military hardliners and neoconservatives.

    Libby remained out of the public limelight for much of George W. Bush's first term. Soon after 9/11, however, Libby's work came under increasing scrutiny. Observers accused him of working with Cheney to bolster discredited allegations that had been used to build the case for action against Iraq, including the assertion that an agent of Saddam Hussein met with lead hijacker Mohamed Atta during the months leading up to 9/11.

    It was not until mid-2005, however, that Libby found himself subject to widespread media attention, when his name increasingly appeared in news stories about the leak of Plame's identity.

    1992 Draft Defense Policy Guidance

    In 1992, while he was working under Cheney, Libby teamed up with Wolfowitz to write—with the assistance of Zalmay Khalilzad—the Pentagon's new Defense Policy Guidance, or DPG. The draft version of the guidance, ordered by Cheney, laid out a military strategy for global military dominance and preventive war. A version of it was leaked to the press, and the DPG was toned down after the New York Timespublished a story about the document's recommendations for a post-Cold War defense posture.

    The draft DPG called for massive increases in defense spending, the assertion of lone superpower status, the prevention of the emergence of any regional competitors, the use of preventive—or preemptive—force, and the idea of forsaking multilateralism if it didn't suit U.S. interests. It called for intervening in disputes throughout the globe, even when the disputes were not directly related to U.S. interests, arguing that the United States should "retain the preeminent responsibility for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends, or which could seriously disrupt international relations." The United States must also "show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests."[10]

    After 9/11, many of the ideas outlined in the draft DPG resonated with the Bush administration. When the administration released the unclassified version of President George W. Bush's National Security Strategy, observers remarked on the many similarities between the draft guidance and the new so-called Bush Doctrine, particularly their mutual call for a preemptive defense posture.[11]

    The guidance also seems to have served as a template for the founding statement of principles of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was signed by a who's who list of foreign policy hardliners and neoconservatives who joined the George W. Bush administration, including Cheney, Libby, Wolfowitz, Khalilzad, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliott Abrams, and Peter Rodman.[12] Libby, along with other PNAC principals, was part of the team that also produced the PNAC report, Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century, which prefigured the Bush administration's defense policy and budget.

    The Apprentice

    According to a review in the New Yorker, Libby's novel, The Apprentice, "tells the tale of Setsuo, a courageous virgin innkeeper who finds himself on the brink of love and war.” Describing the book as an "entry in the long and distinguished annals of the right-wing dirty novel," the Laura Collins wrote that it took Libby more than 20 years to write the book, which takes place in a secluded Japanese province in the early 1900s. "The narrative makes generous mention of lice, snot, drunkenness, bad breath, torture, urine, 'turds,' armpits, arm hair, neck hair, pubic hair, pus, boils, and blood (regular and menstrual)," reports the New Yorker. "One passage goes, 'At length he walked around to the deer's head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer's nostrils.'" At some point, a character asks "if they should f— the deer." Retells the New Yorker: "The answer, reader, is yes."[13]

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    [3] Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, “Bush Critic Became Target of Libby, Former Aides Say,” Los Angelese Times, October 21, 2005, http://articles.latimes.com/2005/oct/21/nation/na-libby21.

    [4] Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, “Bush Critic Became Target of Libby, Former Aides Say,” Los Angelese Times, October 21, 2005, http://articles.latimes.com/2005/oct/21/nation/na-libby21.

    [5] Quoted in Daniel Engber, “Do Aspens Turn in Clusters?” Slate.com, October 17, 2005, http://www.slate.com/id/2128205.

    [6] David Dow, "Independence Day: The Drama of Bush and Libby," New York Times, July 4, 2007.

    [7] Carter, Ledyard, and Milburn LLP, “Paths Back to Professional Work after a Felony Conviction,” November 15, 2007, http://www.clm.com/publication.cfm/ID/155.

    [8] Alex Koppelman, "On behalf of I. Lewis Libby,” Salon.com, May 31, 2007, http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2007/05/31/libby_sentencing/index.html .

    [9] Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006).

    [10] Excerpts of the 1992 Draft Defense Policy Guidance (PBS.org), http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/iraq/etc/wolf.html.

    [11] Chris Dolan and David Cohen, "The War about the War: Iraq and the Politics of National Security Advising in the G.W. Bush Administration's First Term," Politics & Policy, Volume 34, No. 1, March 2006.

    [12] Statement of Principles, Project for the New American Century, June 3, 1997, http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm.

    [13] Laura Collins, “Scooter’s Sex Shocker,” New Yorker, November 7, 2005, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/11/07/051107ta_talk_collins.

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    Libby, I. Lewis “Scooter” Résumé


    • Hudson Institute: Senior Vice President

    • Project for the New American Century: Signatory of Statement of Principles, August 1999 Letter on Taiwan's Defense

    • American Bar Association: Former Member, American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security

    • Rand Corporation: Former Member, Advisory Board of the Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies

    Government Service

    • Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney: 2001-2005 (Bush Jr. Administration)

    • Department of Defense: Deputy Under Secretary for Policy and Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Strategy and Resources (George Bush Sr. Administration)

    • U.S. House of Representatives: Legal Adviser, Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China (Cox Committee)

    • Department of State: Director, Special Projects, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 1982-1985; Policy Planning Staff, Office of the Secretary, 1981


    Private Sector

    • Dechert, Price, & Rhoads: Former Managing Partner, Washington Office

    • Northrop Grumman: Former Adviser



    • Columbia University: J.D., 1975

    • Yale University: B.A., magna cum laude 1972


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