WASHINGTON – President Bush has Dick Cheney as his behind-the-scenes adviser and problem solver. The vice president has his own man who fits that description: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (search).
His job as Cheney's chief of staff gives Libby extraordinary influence and access in all corners of White House policy-making, particularly national security. But, just as Cheney doesn't talk about his conversations with Bush, Libby does not promote what he does for the vice president.
Unlike many senior White House officials, Libby avoids the Sunday talk shows and rarely is quoted by name.
However, his quiet contacts with reporters have pushed Libby into the spotlight as a grand jury investigates whether White House officials leaked the name of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame (search).
Libby has been identified as a source in the matter for two reporters, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper (search) and the New York Times' Judith Miller (search). Miller spent more than 12 weeks in jail before agreeing to testify before a federal grand jury on Friday, though she did not write a story on Plame. Bush aide Karl Rove (search) has been identified as another source.
Libby, Rove and other White House officials refuse to comment on grounds that the Plame case is the subject of a criminal investigation.
Libby had another accomplishment before entering the White House, as author of a novel that won praise from literary critics: a story of romance and intrigue that takes place a century ago in a Japanese mountain village.
Libby moved from the Ivy League to a successful career as an attorney to the upper echelons of the U.S. government.
Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search), Libby's friend and now World Bank president, said Libby's skill with the pen are what made him first hire Libby to work in the Reagan State Department and later at the Pentagon. The two got to know each other when Wolfowitz was Libby's professor at Yale University.
Libby was working on "The Apprentice" during his time at the State Department. He had started the book for a creative writing course in college in 1972 and didn't complete it until 1996. He would put it aside during busy times and work on improving it between federal jobs.
"He is a kind of perfectionist," Wolfowitz said, adding that Libby's attention to detail makes him a careful lawyer, too. "I find him extremely valuable. If everybody else is running off to a conclusion, he'll say, 'Wait a minute, have you thought of this?' He's conscientious to the point of being slightly worrywart."
"He's very inventive about problem solving," said Mary Matalin (search), who also worked on Cheney's staff in the first Bush term. "He has the infinite and unwavering trust of Dick Cheney, which is no small thing."
Libby and the vice president got to know each other at the Pentagon when Cheney was defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush (search). By 2000, Libby was working as a top adviser to Cheney in the presidential campaign and then followed him to the White House.
He was at Cheney's side when the vice president was in secure locations after the terrorist attacks in 2001. And, along with Cheney, Libby became a driving force in the administration's national security policy and march to war in Iraq.
"He was strategic in thinking that the way to respond to this problem was to take out the reasons and what sustained the enemy," Matalin said.
Libby was swayed by intelligence on Saddam's alleged weapons program, and prepared a thick document that argued the case for going to war. He presented the information to others on the White House national security team and it reportedly became the basis for Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations.