Reporter testifies again in CIA case
Judith Miller took questions for more than an hour
WASHINGTON – Under pressure from prosecutors, a New York Times reporter testified on Wednesday to a federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative’s identity about a previously undisclosed conversation with a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
At her second appearance before the grand jury, Times reporter Judith Miller took questions for more than an hour after turning over notes detailing her June 23, 2003, conversation with Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby. An entry in her notes referred to Joseph Wilson, covert CIA operative Valerie Plame’s diplomat husband.
That conversation could help federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald establish whether the White House started targeting Wilson and possibly his wife in the weeks before Wilson publicly accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on Iraq.
During that period, reports had surfaced of a CIA-funded trip Wilson took in which he investigated administration charges that Iraq tried to buy nuclear materials in Africa and found the allegations had little foundation.
The leak investigation has spotlighted freedom-of-press issues and the Bush administration’s aggressive efforts to defend its Iraq policy against critics.President George W. Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, has also been summoned to make a fourth appearance before the grand jury, most likely on Friday, and prosecutors have told him they can make no guarantees he will not be indicted.
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller has acknowledged that Miller remains under a contempt-of-court order over an earlier refusal to testify and «is not yet clear of legal jeopardy.»
After spending 85 days in jail for the refusal, Miller testified before the grand jury on September 30 about two previously disclosed conversations with Libby — on July 8 and July 12, 2003.
Libby had referred only to the July conversations when he wrote Miller last month waiving a confidentiality pledge. The limited reference raised questions about whether he intended the waiver to apply to their conversation that June.
It was unclear how Fitzgerald learned of the June 23, 2003, conversation.
Legal sources close to Miller said she discovered the notes after she testified.
Miller was tight-lipped as she left the federal courthouse. «No comment today,» her attorney, Robert Bennett, said.
After her September 30 appearance, a clearly relieved Miller made a public statement about how happy she was to be free.
Fitzgerald has not indicated whether he intends to bring indictments in his nearly 2-year-old investigation into who leaked Plame’s identity and whether any laws were broken.
He could bring charges against officials for knowingly revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative, but some lawyers involved in the case say his focus may have shifted to conspiracy, perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges.
Two lawyers said Fitzgerald may be seeking to extend the investigation beyond the grand jury’s scheduled October 28 expiration because of the new information.
Libby’s June 23, 2003, conversation with Miller could bolster a conspiracy or perjury case because the conversation was not initially disclosed and suggests a preemptive effort was made to discredit Wilson, lawyers said.
According to a National Journal report, in two appearances before the federal grand jury, Libby did not disclose the June 23 conversation with Miller. Nor did Libby disclose the conversation when he was twice interviewed by FBI agents.
Key Democrats in the House of Representatives asked Fitzgerald in a letter to submit a public report to Congress detailing his findings even if no charges are brought.
Wilson asserts that administration officials outed his wife, damaging her ability to work undercover, to discredit him for criticizing Bush’s Iraq policy, first in a New York Times opinion piece on July 6, 2003.
The newly disclosed conversation between Miller and Libby took place two weeks earlier.