If former Cheney top aide Scooter Libby lied under oath, he has committed a serious crime. But why would he bother to lie?

After all, the investigation has presented no indictments on the crime it was probing–the alleged leaking of the covert status of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Time magazine scribe Matt Cooper, who, as you recall, was embroiled in the Libby fiasco, reports on his conversation with Libby. It was a conversation that supplies about one third of the Libby indictment. Here is some of what Cooper writes in his magazine:

“Most of [the conversaion] was on the record, but part of it wasn’t, and I wanted to see if I could get your permission to talk about the part that wasn’t on the record. I told him that I would tell the truth about our conversation. Libby told me that he used to be a lawyer and that ‘to be safe’ our attorneys should talk and if it was O.K. with them, it was O.K. with him. So the following week my attorney, Floyd Abrams, spoke with Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate, and they hammered out the details of the waiver. On Aug. 23, I had a tuna sandwich and gave a deposition in Abrams’ Washington office about the conversation. The Wilson part that really interested Fitzgerald was tiny, as I told TIME readers. Basically, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson’s wife having been involved in sending him to Niger. Libby responded with words to the effect of, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard that too.'”

This hardly amounts to outing Valerie Plame. It is mystifying if Libby lied about such a conversation. Lying to a grand jury is a serious matter, and Libby knew this. Cooper notes:  

“I was surprised last week that the Libby indictment even mentioned me. But apparently his recollection of the conversation differed from mine in a way that led the prosecutor to think he was lying. As for me, I still have no idea if Libby or anyone else has committed a crime. I only know that if there is a Libby trial, I’ll testify truthfully and completely, as I did before the grand jury.”

It’s interesting, by the way, that the left is utterly undaunted by the investigation’s failure to hang an indictment for the actual crime being investigated on any Bush official. CNN, for example, aired a weekend piece on the damage that can be done by exposing a covert agent (it’s a heinous and illegal act).

Despite the silence of the special prosecutor on this matter, CNN ascribed the unmasking of Plame to “her own governmen.”

Well, we don’t know that–and neither does CNN.