CIA Leak Trial Jury Selection Continues; Group of 16 Could Include Bush Critics

Jurors in the CIA leak trial will be drawn from a pool that includes two men with advanced degrees from MIT, several retirees, an art historian, an opera singer and a number of people who have strong opinions about the Bush administration's war policies.

After nearly four days of legal wrangling, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton approved 37 prospective jurors for service Monday in the perjury trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Attorneys will return to court Monday afternoon to select 16 for the jury box.

The potential jurors were drawn from a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 9-to-1. The contentious selection hearings lasted twice as long as Walton expected, largely because Libby's attorneys worked hard to weed Bush administration critics from the pool.

A number of critics made it into the pool, however. Some doubted the president's honesty about Iraq. Others questioned his policies. Most potential jurors didn't have strong feelings, however, or said they could set them aside and be fair.

Defense attorneys can dismiss 12 jurors Monday afternoon for any reason. Prosecutors can dismiss eight.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.

Libby, a former aide to President Bush and chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is the highest-ranking member of the Republican administration to face criminal charges. He is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations regarding outed CIA operative Valerie Plame, who husband was a vocal critic of the administration.

The contentious jury selection process foreshadows a heated trial set to the backdrop of the war in Iraq.

Cheney's credibility and that of other administration officials will be a key issue in the case. Libby and Cheney, who are expected to testify, likely would contradict other witnesses such as members of the media.

Prosecutors say Libby lied to investigators to spare him political embarrassment. Libby says he didn't lie but rather forgot details about his conversations because he preoccupied with national security issues.