Reporter Says Libby Told Her About CIA Operative

New York Times reporter Judith Miller, trailed by attorney Robert S. Bennett, said it was only after a brief phone conversation with I. Lewis
New York Times reporter Judith Miller, trailed by attorney Robert S. Bennett, said it was only after a brief phone conversation with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby last month that she felt she could accept his waiver of confidentiality. (By Mark Wilson -- Getty Images)
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2005

Vice President Cheney's chief of staff discussed with New York Times correspondent Judith Miller the fact that the wife of a White House critic worked for the CIA on as many as three occasions before the woman, Valerie Plame, was publicly identified, according to a Times account published today.

During one of the 2003 conversations with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Miller said, she wrote a version of Plame's name in her notebook.

In a disclosure that could figure in special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation, Miller said she initially refused to testify about her discussions with Libby because she believed he was signaling her that she should not cooperate in the CIA leak investigation unless her account would clear him.

Miller said her lawyer Floyd Abrams told her that Libby's attorney, Joseph A. Tate, had related part of Libby's grand jury testimony and was "pressing about what you would say. When I wouldn't give him an assurance that you would exonerate Libby, if you were to cooperate, he then immediately gave me this, 'Don't go there, or, we don't want you there.' "

Tate strongly denied such a conversation in an e-mail to the Times, calling the account "outrageous" and insisting that "I never once suggested that she should not testify. It was just the opposite." He did not return a phone call from The Washington Post last night.

Miller was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify about Libby, until she reached an accommodation last month with Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has been investigating whether any administration officials -- including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who testified for a fourth time Friday -- broke the law by disclosing the identity of a covert CIA operative. Lawyers involved in the case have said they believe he is investigating other potential crimes, such as whether there was a conspiracy in the administration to discredit Plame's husband and White House critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV. A grand jury examining the issue expires on Oct. 28.

Libby, though little known to the public, was a major supporter of the Iraq war and wields great influence on foreign policy and other issues within the administration.

In the first on-the-record account of what she told a federal grand jury in two recent appearances, Miller described a meeting on June 23, 2003, with Libby in the Old Executive Office Building. She said her notes leave open the possibility that Libby told her Wilson's wife might work at the CIA. "Wife works at bureau?" the notes say.

This conversation -- for which Miller only recently found her notes -- occurred when Wilson had not yet gone public with his criticism that President Bush had exaggerated evidence that Iraq was seeking weapons of mass destruction.

During that encounter, Miller said in the Times, Libby was angry about reports that Cheney and other senior officials had embraced flimsy evidence about Iraq seeking nuclear material in the African nation of Niger and was concerned about "selective leaking" by the CIA to distance the agency if no illegal Iraqi weapons were found. Libby noted that the CIA had sent a "clandestine guy" -- a reference to Wilson -- to Niger on a fact-finding mission.

On July 8, 2003 -- two days after Wilson published a denunciation of the White House on the weapons issue -- Miller had breakfast with Libby at the St. Regis Hotel. Miller said Libby told her that Wilson's wife worked for a CIA bureau called Winpac, for weapons intelligence, nonproliferation and arms control. Miller said she testified, however, that Libby did not refer to Plame by name or mention her covert status.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company