Freed Writer Testifies in CIA Leak Probe
Saturday, October 1, 2005
New York Times reporter Judith Miller told a grand jury yesterday about her conversations with Vice President Cheney's top aide in the summer of 2003, moving the two-year investigation into whether senior Bush administration officials illegally leaked covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity a step closer to its end.
Sources familiar with Miller's testimony say her account of two discussions with Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, that July are similar to the account Libby reportedly gave the grand jury last year. Both said they spoke about Plame's husband, administration critic and former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, on July 8 and again on July 12 or 13. On at least one of those occasions, Libby told Miller that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, the sources said.
Miller also turned over redacted copies of handwritten notes she made after one of the conversations with Libby, a condition set by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
"I served 85 days in jail because of my belief in the importance of upholding the confidential relationship journalists have with their sources," Miller said after emerging from the courthouse after three hours of testimony. "Believe me, I did not want to be in jail."
Miller was the last person Fitzgerald sought to question in his investigation. The grand jury hearing the case is to conclude its work by Oct. 28. Barring some new development, legal experts predicted, Fitzgerald will soon wrap up his investigation.
Fitzgerald's probe has focused on contacts between administration officials and reporters in the days after July 6, 2003, when Wilson published an opinion piece undercutting the administration's justification for going to war with Iraq. Wilson alleged the government had "twisted intelligence" that he said he knew firsthand was dubious.
On July 14, Plame's name appeared in a column by Robert D. Novak, who reported that two confidential government sources had told him Wilson's wife helped arrange the trip he took to investigate claims that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium in the African nation of Niger for use in its nuclear weapons program.
Miller's testimony, which came after she served 85 days in jail trying to avoid such questions, focused the spotlight again on Libby. He is one of the administration's key policymakers, particularly in the area of foreign policy, and influenced internal administration debates over the decision to invade Iraq, the course of the Middle East peace process and negotiations over nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
Libby's conversations with reporters that July have consumed much of Fitzgerald's time. The top Cheney aide spoke with at least five reporters in the days after Wilson's public criticism, and several of them, including two at The Washington Post, have answered Fitzgerald's questions after working out agreements with their sources that allowed them to testify.
A sourceclose to Miller said yesterday that her testimony does not implicate Libby as intentionally and knowingly identifying Plame.
According to a source familiar with Libby's account of his July 2003 conversations with Miller, the two first met for breakfast on July 8, when Miller interviewed Libby about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At that time, she asked him why Wilson had been chosen to investigate questions that Cheney had posed about whether Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger. Libby, the source familiar with his account said, told her that the White House was working with the CIA to learn more about Wilson's trip and how he was selected.
Libby had a second conversation with Miller, a telephone call on July 12 or July 13, the source said. In it, Libby said he had learned that Wilson's wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA. Libby never knew Plame's name or that she was a covert operative, the source said.