Guarding the 'I' in I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has emerged as a central character in the controversy surrounding the leak of the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Mike Pesca takes a closer look at one of the more baffling mysteries: Libby's reluctance to discuss what the "I" stands for in his name.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

I. Lewis Libby is the top aide to Vice President Cheney. He may have broken the law by leaking the name of an undercover CIA agent. Mr. Libby's nickname is Scooter; everyone seems to call him that. The initial `I' stands in for his actual first name, which is, well, the subject of this report from NPR's Mike Pesca.

MIKE PESCA reporting:

When I. Lewis Libby was named deputy undersecretary for Defense, here's what Pentagon briefer Bob Hall said. Quote: "I. Lewis Libby--I being his first initial, not referring to myself here--I. Lewis Libby is the deputy undersecretary for Defense for policy.'

Libby's office will not tell reporters what the `I' stands for. He did not divulge the meaning of `I' when confirmed in the Defense Department in the early '90s or in the State Department in the '80s. He wrote a generally well-received novel only as Lewis Libby, and this is the masterstroke: He goes by Scooter.

Think about how this works. If you introduce yourself as C. Everett Koop, everyone will ask, `What's the C for?' You'll have to say, `It's Charles.' But if you say, `Hi, I'm C. Everett Koop, but all my friends call me Lightning,' everyone will say, `Lightning?'

So here we have I. Lewis Libby, the most powerful adviser to the second-most powerful man in the world and no one knows his actual name, until now. Libby was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended Yale there. I called the New Haven library and talked to a librarian named Brad Bullis. Bullis is a member of the National Guard who spent time fighting in Afghanistan, is not one to shrink from a challenge. Bullis called the librarian at Libby's alma mater.

Mr. BRAD BULLIS (Librarian): And she invited me to come over and take a look at some yearbooks, so I looked at the Yale Banner for 1972 and we found that his name is Irve--I-R-V-E--Lewis Libby Jr.

PESCA: Time magazine and the Web site Wikipedia had it as Irving; USA Today and The New York Times had it as Irv without the E. No one noted the Junior, although Libby's father's name was also Irving, spelled as I-R-V-E in two references found for him in the LexisNexis database. So there you have it. I. Lewis Libby may or may not have been Robert Novak's unnamed source, but I. Lewis Libby is unnamed no more. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

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