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Former Reporter Cleared for CIA Leak Case Jury Pool

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Jan. 16: Former White House staffer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby arrives at the U.S. District Court in Washington for the first day of his trial.AP

A former Washington Post reporter who wrote a book on spying and lived near someone who could be a key witness in the case was approved as a potential juror in the CIA leak case Wednesday.

The man's acceptance into the jury pool showed the difficulty that attorneys have had in picking a jury in the highly publicized perjury case against former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Several potential jurors have been disqualified for having strongly negative feelings about the Bush administration.

The former journalist who spent nearly an hour on the stand during the second day of jury selection lives near NBC "Meet the Press" anchor Tim Russert and knew or had connections to several key witnesses in the case. He once worked under Post reporter Bob Woodward and had followed the case in the news.

He was even friends with an attorney who played touch football with Libby — "He's got a great arm," the potential juror remarked.

Despite his connections to the witnesses, he said he did not have preconceived opinions about the case.

"I'm very skeptical about pretty much everything I hear until I see it backed up," he said.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys can still use a peremptory — or unexplained — challenge to strike him from the jury pool when he returns Thursday.

Another potential juror in the case was allowed to remain in the pool Wednesday after saying she would be impartial and put aside her tepid impression of Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby's former boss and an expected defense witness.

"I'm not particularly impressed with a lot of his manners of being, but I can't speak to his credibility," said the woman, who works for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Libby's attorneys say it's critical they know whether potential jurors view the vice president as credible. Two people who expressed doubts about that were dismissed from the jury pool Tuesday.

Another woman was disqualified Wednesday after telling U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, "I can't believe any statement made by the Bush administration."

Opening arguments are planned Monday in a trial expected to take up to six weeks.

CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity was leaked to the press in 2003, around the time her husband, Joseph Wilson, was criticizing the Bush administration's march to war. The trial hinges not on the source of the leak but whether Libby lied to investigators.

He says he forgot his conversations with reporters because he had more pressing matters on his mind.