Out of jail, reporter Miller testifies in CIA leak investigation
September 30, 2005
WASHINGTON – New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s high-profile career has had its highs and lows. She won a Pulitzer Prize. She’s been criticized for stories linking Saddam Hussein’s government to weapons of mass destruction.Friday she was smiling from ear to ear – after testifying for hours before a grand jury, giving up conversations she had with a confidential source, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.Miller, who had been in jail for 85 days for refusing to talk, was the final holdout witness whose testimony Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said he needed. He is investigating whether any laws were broken by the Bush administration in the leaking of the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. Miller’s testimony sets the stage for prosecutors to decide whether to charge anyone.She said she got assurances from her source and from Fitzgerald that enabled her to testify.”I know what my conscience would allow and … I stood fast to that,” the reporter said as she emerged from the federal courthouse where she spent more than four hours, most of it behind closed doors testifying.Before she agreed to talk to the grand jury, Miller’s source, Libby, gave her assurances she could reveal the contents of their conversations. For his part, Fitzgerald promised to limit his questioning to the Libby contacts.”Believe me, I did not want to be in jail. But I would have stayed even longer,” said Miller.Until a few months ago, the White House maintained that Libby and presidential aide Karl Rove were not involved in leaking the identity of Plame, whose husband had publicly suggested in July 2003 that the Bush administration twisted intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq.When former Ambassador Joseph Wilson made his allegation the White House was already on the defensive as it sought fruitlessly to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The president’s claims of such weapons had been the main justification for going to war.Libby met with Miller just two days after Wilson blasted the Bush administration in a Times op-ed piece and TV appearance on “Meet the Press.” Libby and Miller spoke again later that week, though Miller did not write a story about Plame.Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who did write about the matter, testified several months ago that Rove and Libby had spoken to him about Wilson’s wife within days of Wilson’s op-ed piece.Plame’s name first surfaced in a column by journalist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. Novak, who had spoken to Rove about Wilson’s wife, wrote that two senior administration officials told him Plame had suggested sending her husband to the African nation of Niger on behalf of the CIA to look into possible Iraqi purchases of uranium yellowcake.Wilson’s article in the Times, titled “What I Didn’t Find In Africa,” stated it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.In October 2003, with the criminal investigation of the Plame leak gaining speed, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said of Rove and Libby: “Those individuals assured me they were not involved in this.”On Friday, Libby’s lawyer detailed some of the recent events leading to Miller’s grand jury appearance.Attorney Joseph Tate said he and his client had released Miller long ago to testify, and were surprised when Miller’s lawyers again asked for a release in the past few weeks.Tate said Miller’s lawyers called recently and said there was “a misunderstanding and Judy wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth” that Libby was releasing her to talk to the grand jury. Tate said Libby didn’t know Plame’s name until seeing it in Novak’s column.Although Miller declined to identify her source, The Times identified him as Libby.Miller, released from jail Thursday night, had been in custody in Alexandria, Va., since July 6. A federal judge ordered her jailed for civil contempt of court when she refused to testify.Of the reporters swept up in Fitzgerald’s investigation, Miller is the only one to go to jail. Novak apparently has cooperated with prosecutors, though neither he nor his lawyer has said so.Miller is a veteran national security reporter. In the 1980s, she became the first woman to be named chief of The Times’ Cairo bureau in Egypt. For her work on Osama bin Laden in 2001, she won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism as part of a small team of Times reporters.Starting in 2002, her stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq strengthened the Bush administration’s hand in going to war and toppling Saddam Hussein. The failure to find the weapons prompted heavy criticism of Miller and the Times as well as of the Bush administration.