Ex-Times writer says Libby linked Wilson's wife to CIA

Miller testifies that former Cheney aide made reference in 3 meetings

January 31, 2007|By Richard B. Schmitt | Richard B. Schmitt,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified yesterday that she had three meetings during which former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told her that the wife of an administration war critic worked for the CIA.

Miller, who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal the conversations to a grand jury investigating the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, testified during Libby's perjury and obstruction trial in federal court.

Miller described three meetings with Libby - including two before the time when the former White House aide said that he had first learned about Plame from another journalist.

She discussed their first meeting on June 23, 2003.

"When Mr. Libby was discussing the intelligence reporting from the CIA ... he said that his wife ... referring to Wilson ... worked in the bureau," Miller said, mentioning former envoy Joseph C. Wilson IV, who wrote a July 6, 2003, opinion piece in the Times critical of the Bush administration. "I was a little unsure of what he meant by that because in the beginning my understanding of the word bureau was that it applied to the FBI. But in the context of our discussion, I quickly understood that he was referring to the CIA."

Miller said she had come to know Libby when she was working on a book on germ warfare. After an overseas assignment, she returned to the Washington bureau of The New York Times in June 2003, as the debate raged over whether the Bush administration had twisted the intelligence it had used to go to war in Iraq.

Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the FBI and a grand jury about when he came to know the identity of Plame.

Later yesterday, Miller endured a scathing cross-examination by defense lawyer Bill Jeffress.

Jeffress played excerpts of a television interview in which Miller acknowledged problems with her memory about a subject when she was not writing a story about it. She said she was a "note-driven" reporter.

Libby's lawyer also focused on the fact that Miller had initially not told the grand jury about her first meeting with Libby in June 2003. She testified she subsequently remembered the conversation after finding an old notebook that included references to such a meeting.

Miller also acknowledged that she had "glanced" at a book written by Wilson that details his fight with the White House over the Iraq war and the disclosure of his wife's identity. Miller never wrote an article about Wilson or Plame.

Jeffress attempted to ask Miller about other sources she had interviewed for possible stories about the dispute. That led to a government objection by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton dismissed the jury for the day. He and the lawyers were discussing how to resolve that line of questioning.

In earlier testimony, a top White House lawyer said yesterday that Libby approached him in late September 2003 with questions about how one would know whether a CIA agent was operating undercover - just as the federal investigation into the outing of Plame was about to formally begin.

David Addington said that Libby told him at the same meeting that "I didn't do it." Addington said he didn't inquire specifically about what Libby was referring to. But he said the conversation in general was about the questions then swirling about how the identity of Plame, who tracked arms proliferation for the agency, became public.

The exchange between the two longtime confidants of Vice President Dick Cheney was recounted by Addington, who succeeded Libby as Cheney's chief of staff after Libby was indicted in October 2005. Addington was counsel to the vice president at the time of the conversation.

Addington said that he warned Libby at the time that he was an attorney for the government and that anything Libby said to him would not necessarily be privileged in the event of a criminal investigation.

"He responded with a sort of `thank you,'" and added, "I just want to tell you ... I didn't do it."

"I didn't inquire what the it was," Addington said.

Addington said that when Libby also asked him how someone would know whether a person was operating undercover as a CIA officer, he responded that that information would normally not be apparent unless one had access to documents showing that they were classified.

Addington said he later forwarded to Libby a copy of a federal law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a felony to intentionally disclose the identity of a covert CIA operative.

Richard B. Schmitt writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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