Reporter jailed in CIA leak case freed

Miller to testify with confidential source's consent


WASHINGTON -- Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to testify in the CIA leak case, was released from a Virginia detention center yesterday afternoon after she and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor to testify before a grand jury investigating the matter, the paper's publisher and executive editor said.

Miller was freed after spending more than 12 weeks in jail, during which she refused to cooperate with the criminal inquiry. Her decision to testify came after she obtained what she described as a waiver offered "voluntarily and personally" by a source who said she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she made to him. She said the source had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.

That source was I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, according to people who have been officially briefed on the case. Miller met with Libby on July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week. Discussions between government officials and journalists that week have been a central focus of the investigation.

Miller said in a statement that she expected to appear before the grand jury today. Miller was released after she and her lawyers met at the jail with Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the case, to discuss her testimony.

The Times' publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., said in a statement that the newspaper supported Miller's decision to testify, just as it had backed her earlier refusal to cooperate. "Judy has been unwavering in her commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source. We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify," Sulzberger said.

Fitzgerald has for more than a year sought testimony from Miller about conversations she had with Libby. Her willingness to testify was based in part on personal assurances given by Libby earlier this month that he had no objection to her discussing their conversations with the grand jury, according to those officials briefed on the case.

Fitzgerald's investigation has centered on the question of whether anyone in the Bush administration illegally disclosed to the news media the identity of an undercover CIA employee, Valerie Wilson, whose name was first published in July 2003 in a syndicated column by Robert F. Novak. A secondary focus has been whether government officials were truthful in their testimony to investigators and the grand jury.

Miller never wrote an article about Wilson. Fitzgerald has said that obtaining Miller's testimony was one of the last remaining objectives of his inquiry, and the deal with Miller suggests that the prosecutor may soon bring the long-running investigation to an end. It is unknown whether prosecutors will charge anyone in the Bush administration with wrongdoing.

The agreement that led to Miller's release followed intense negotiations among Miller and her lawyer, Robert Bennett; Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate; and Fitzgerald. The talks began with a telephone call from Bennett to Tate in late August. Miller spoke with Libby by telephone this month as their lawyers listened, according to people who have been briefed on the matter. It was then that Libby told Miller that she had his personal and voluntary waiver.

But the discussions were at times strained with Libby and Tate asserting that they communicated their voluntary waiver to Miller's lawyers more than a year ago, according to those briefed on the case. Libby wrote to Miller in mid-September, saying that he believed her lawyers understood that his waiver was voluntary.

Others involved in the case have said that Miller did not understand that the waiver had been freely given and did not accept it until she had heard from him directly.

In written statements yesterday, Miller and executives of The New York Times did not identify the source who had urged Miller to testify. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, said Fitzgerald had assured Miller's lawyer that "he intended to limit his grand jury interrogation so that it would not implicate other sources of hers."

Keller said that Fitzgerald cleared the way to an agreement by assuring Miller and her source that he would not regard a conversation between the two about a possible waiver as an obstruction of justice.

Miller said she believed the agreement between her lawyers and Fitzgerald "satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources." She added, "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 chose to take the consequences -- 85 days in prison -- rather than violate that promise. The principle was more important to uphold than my personal freedom."

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