Judy Miller: Witness for the Prosecution
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 6:24 PM
WASHINGTON -- Her pen wouldn't work. Her memory isn't the greatest. But New York Times reporter Judy Miller's three interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff in 2003 were more than enough to land her in the middle of the CIA leak trial.
Now a freelance journalist, Miller spent the afternoon in circumstances no journalist would ever envy: in court answering questions under oath about a formerly confidential source.
During her long and controversial tenure at the Times, Miller was the soul of aggressiveness, a quality that came through loud and clear Tuesday when she faced two hours of cross-examination at the hands of one of the lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
As a prosecution witness, Miller, who spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to cooperate against Libby, seemed uncharacteristically subdued. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald walked her through her story in 40 minutes, undercutting Libby's version _ that he learned about the CIA employment of Valerie Plame from reporters.
The interrogation she faced from defense attorney William Jeffress grew heated at times, occasionally prompting Libby to smile, take notes and whisper with the rest of his legal team.
Jeffress said he could not understand how Miller can now relate in great detail one of her three conversations with Libby _ a conversation she says she'd totally forgotten about for two years before finding the notebook memorializing it in a shopping bag underneath her desk.
"Counselor, I have already said I didn't remember that meeting," an exasperated Miller told Jeffress.
Her memory is "largely note-driven," she repeated several times.
In one of the conversations with Libby, her pen "didn't work," but she was able to take notes, she assured the prosecutor.
Miller recounted her return from Iraq in June 2003 after the U.S. military's fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction.
She came back to "a great debate" over whether the White House had lied before the war about Saddam Hussein's having WMD. Anger was directed everywhere, but especially at the White House and the media, "and me because I had written several of these stories" pointing to Iraq having such weapons, Miller testified.
She spoke with Libby on June 23, July 8 and July 12, 2003, after being assigned to a team of reporters examining why no weapons of mass destruction had been found.
Miller never wrote a story, but investigators found out she'd met with Libby. A year later, as she and the Times resisted, a federal judge found her in contempt of court. After the judicial process played out against her, Miller chose to go to jail rather than reveal her source.
With prominent Washington lawyer Bob Bennett representing her, a deal emerged in which Libby essentially gave the reporter his blessing for her to testify.
She left the Times a month after her two grand jury appearances, declaring that she had "become the news."
Earlier, while Miller was still with the Times, the newspaper criticized its coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq for not questioning its reporting on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction more closely.
Much of the reporting had been done by Miller, who said during her final days at the Times that "the analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them _ we were all wrong."
She added: "I did the best job I could."