WASHINGTON – I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (search) quietly rose to the highest corridors of power in Washington only to be brought down in a scandal that thrust him into the limelight that he so explicitly avoided.
Libby's behind-the-scenes involvement in the public exposure of a covert CIA agent led to his indictment Friday on obstruction, false statement and perjury charges, depriving Vice President Dick Cheney (search) of his closest adviser.
The Columbia University-trained lawyer has foreign policy expertise as a former aide in the Defense and State departments. He has been extremely loyal to Cheney and, in return, had the vice president's unwavering trust.
Libby was known as "Cheney's Cheney." Just as President Bush has Cheney as his behind-the-scenes adviser and problem-solver, Cheney had Libby as his trusted right-hand man. "Scooter is to Cheney as Cheney is to Bush," former Cheney aide Mary Matalin (search) said.
Libby's nickname, a bit incongruous for such a powerful Washington figure, was given to Libby by his father when as a baby he would "scoot" from place to place. It stuck, and Libby joked that it kept people from taking him too seriously in Washington.
Some on Cheney's staff did not like Libby's management skills. He didn't spend much time grooming those who worked for him and instead focused his attention on serving the president and vice president in a demanding job that can exact a high personal toll.
In his dual role as Cheney's chief of staff and adviser to Bush, Libby has had extraordinary influence and access in all aspects of White House policy-making, particularly national security. He was an expert in homeland security and weapons of mass destruction even before Sept. 11, 2001, and used that knowledge to shape administration policy after the terrorist attacks.
Libby and the vice president got to know each other at the Pentagon when Cheney was defense secretary under the first President Bush. By 2000, Libby was working as a top adviser to Cheney in the presidential campaign and then followed him to the White House.
Those who worked with Libby and Cheney said they were a good cerebral match, and Libby wasn't afraid to speak up when he saw things differently than the vice president.
"There's clearly comfortable enough a relationship there that he doesn't hesitate to disagree with the vice president or offer a different opinion or an unpopular opinion," said Republican consultant Stuart Stevens, who became a friend of Libby after helping prepare Cheney for the 2000 vice presidential debate.
While rising in government, Libby also explored his creative side by penning a novel called "The Apprentice," an exotic story of romance and intrigue set in 1903 Japan that won praise from literary critics. Published in 1996, the novel was released in paperback in 2002.
Libby told a New York Times interviewer when the paperback edition came out that he sometimes longed for a quieter life outside the White House. "I do occasionally dream of just becoming a novelist and sitting on Crete and drinking odd-named wines," he said.
But he remained as Cheney's chief of staff, despite the grueling hours away from his family. Libby is married to Harriet Grant, a former Democratic attorney, and has two sons.
"It's a real sacrifice to have that job and it'd be fun for about a week," Stevens said. "It's grueling, really takes a lot of time away from his family."
Libby 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 prepared a thick document that argued the case for going to war based on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons program. Libby 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.
Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Libby's friend and now World Bank president, said Libby felt his increasingly high profile was hard on his boys. "You have no idea how it is to have people leaking stuff everyday portraying you as some kind of monster," Wolfowitz said in an interview.
Libby clearly understood the power of information leaked to the press, as the grand jury investigation showed. While Libby avoided television appearances and rarely was quoted by name, he would talk to a few reporters on background.
Two reporters — Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and the New York Times' Judith Miller — said Libby told them the identity of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame. At the time, Plame's husband was publicly criticizing the administration's case for war — a case that Libby was instrumental in helping to make.
Miller spent more than 12 weeks in jail before Libby personally relieved her from her promise of confidentiality, leading her to testify about their conversations before a grand jury.
She told of a letter that Libby sent her in jail. Displaying his flair for literary prose, he closed with what appears to be a longing for a quiet place away from the looming investigation that was poised to bring him down and affect the entire Bush White House.
"Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning," Libby wrote. "They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."