N.Y. Times Reporter Released From Jail
Friday, September 30, 2005
New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released from jail late yesterday and is scheduled to testify this morning before a federal grand jury investigating whether any government officials illegally leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Miller, 57, has been jailed for contempt of court since July 6 for refusing to testify about conversations with news sources. She was released from the Alexandria Detention Center shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday after her attorney Robert S. Bennett reached an agreement on her testimony with special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, according to two lawyers familiar with the case.
Miller had refused to testify about information she received from confidential sources. But she said she changed her mind after I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, assured her in a telephone call last week that a waiver he gave prosecutors authorizing them to question reporters about their conversations with him was not coerced.
"It's good to be free," Miller said in a statement last night. "I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. . . . I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations relating to the Wilson-Plame matter."
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said in a statement: "Judy refused to testify in this case because she gave her professional word that she would keep her interview with her source confidential. In recent days, several important things have changed that convinced Judy that she was released from her obligation."
But Joseph Tate, an attorney for Libby, said yesterday that he told Miller attorney Floyd Abrams a year ago that Libby's waiver was voluntary and that Miller was free to testify. He said last night that he was contacted by Bennett several weeks ago, and was surprised to learn that Miller had not accepted that representation as authorization to speak with prosecutors.
"We told her lawyers it was not coerced," Tate said. "We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration."
Tate said that he and Bennett then asked Fitzgerald whether their clients could talk without fear of being accused of obstructing the investigation, and were assured that Fitzgerald would not oppose them doing so. After the phone call from Libby on Sept. 19 or 20, Tate said, the lawyers wrote a letter to Fitzgerald indicating Miller accepted Libby's representation that the waiver was voluntary.
In July, when Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered Miller to jail, he told her she was mistaken in her belief that she was defending a free press, stressing that the government source she "alleges she is protecting" had released her from her promise of confidentiality.
Fitzgerald has been investigating whether senior Bush administration officials broke the law by knowingly leaking Plame's identity to reporters as retaliation for an opinion article written by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson accused the administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq's attempt to obtain weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the war.
Plame's name first appeared in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak in July 2003, eight days after Wilson's accusations.
According to a source familiar with Libby's account of his conversations with Miller in July 2003, the subject of Wilson's wife came up on two occasions. In the first, on July 8, Miller met with Libby to interview him about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the source said.