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Miller's Lawyer Says Aide May Face 'Problem' in Probe

Bennett said: "Fitzgerald is putting together a big case, and he's looking for little pieces of a puzzle."

Miller, in her article in yesterday's Times, said she had conversations with Libby that took place on June 23, July 8 and July12, 2003. All three occurred before Plame's identity was publicly disclosed in Novak's column. According to Miller's notes, Libby spoke about Wilson's wife during all three conversations and associated her with the CIA.

I. Lewis
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, right, shown with Vice President Cheney in July, had three conversations about CIA operative Valerie Plame with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, she wrote in yesterday's editions of the paper. (By Jason Reed -- Reuters)

The possibility of an obstruction-of-justice charge arises out of separate events, both associated with Miller's refusal to testify about her conversations with Libby until she felt she had a completely voluntary waiver of their confidentiality agreement. Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

According to the Times story, one of Miller's lawyers, Floyd Abrams, was authorized in the summer of 2004 to talk to Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, about whether Libby, who had signed a paper waiver, "really wanted her to testify." The story said that "Tate had said she was free to testify," but Abrams added that "Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife."

With that information, the Times said, Miller concluded that Libby was sending her a message that he did not want her to testify. The newspaper added that "Mr. Tate called Ms. Miller's interpretation 'outrageous.' "

Yesterday, Bennett would not say that Tate was trying to steer Miller's testimony, but that he thought it "complicated things" and that "Judy felt she did not have the clear personal waiver she needed."

In an interview yesterday, Abrams declined to endorse Miller's account that Libby did not want her to testify unless she was going to exonerate him. "That's Judy's interpretation," Abrams said. Tate "certainly asked me what Judy would say, but that's an entirely proper question."

Abrams also minimized Miller's assertion that another source may have given her the name "Valerie Flame," as she recorded it in the same notebook used for her first interview of Libby. Abrams said others may have mentioned Plame only "in passing. . . . The central and essentially only figure who had information was Libby."

In mid-September, with Miller having been in jail for more than two months, further negotiations involving Fitzgerald, Tate and Miller's lawyers, including Bennett, took place. The result was the Sept. 15 letter from Libby to Miller, in which he again told her that he wanted her to testify. But the letter included this sentence: "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."

Bennett said the sentence "was a very stupid thing to put in a letter," and though he would notsay it was another possible attempt to steer her testimony, "it was a close call and she was troubled by it."

According to Miller's first-person account, Fitzgerald asked during her grand jury testimony about Libby's letter. Miller said, "This portion of the letter had surprised me, because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say that we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity." But she added that "my notes suggested that we had discussed her job."

Staff writer Jim VandeHei contributed to this report.

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