Thursday, September 29, 2005

Miller released from jail; to testify regarding Libby very soon... Fitz to make his decision soon on whether to bring charges

After having spent more than 12 weeks in jail, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was freed today. The news of her release aside, she will soon be debriefed by federal investigators, and then testify before a federal grand jury, perhaps as early as tomorrow morning.

What is perhaps left out of news accounts tonight is that Miller's testimony is central to whether special counsel Fitzgerald brings criminal charges against I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. Libby was unwavering in telling prosecutors and the FBI that he knew nothing of Plame's covert work for the CIA, even though he spoke to Miller about at length about her and her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Whether that account is truthful is something only both Miller and Libby know. Miller's testimony on that issue will be central to any final disposition of the criminal probe, sources close to the investigation have told me for some time now.

As to Miller's release earlier today, her own newspaper reports tonight:

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 had 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. Ms. Miller met with Mr. 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.

Actually, for those very few readers who read this blog and my reporting on this subject, that is sort of old news... I first reported in the American Prospect last August 8 that Miller had met with Libby on July 8, 2003; further, that Libby was one of her sources; and the main reason that she was in jail was because Libby had not provided her a personalized waiver to testify.

Here is what I reported at the time:

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has told federal investigators that he met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to legal sources familiar with Libby's account.
The meeting between Libby and Miller has been a central focus of the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald as to whether any Bush administration official broke the law by unmasking Plame's identity or relied on classified information to discredit former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, according to sources close to the case as well as documents filed in federal court by Fitzgerald.
The meeting took place in Washington, D.C., six days before columnist Robert Novak wrote his now-infamous column unmasking Plame as a "CIA operative." Although little noticed at the time, Novak's column would cause the appointment of a special prosecutor, ultimately place in potential legal jeopardy senior advisers to the president of the United States, and lead to the jailing of a New York Times reporter.

A short time after that story appeared (indeed a very, very short time-- about a week later), Miller's attorneys and Libby's attorney, Joseph A. Tate, began prolonged negotiations that would lead to Libby finally providing her a personal waiver that would lead to her release and testimony. There is quite a backstory there, and my then unnoticed Prospect story paved the way, in large part, I am told for those negotiations. I am going to write a lot about this, on my blog, and long reporting pieces elsewhere.

A footnote: Although the Times is now confirming my story that Miller did meet Libby on July 8, and Libby was Miller's source, here is what the Times had to publicly say back when I first broke the news:

In response to questions for this article, Catherine J. Mathis, a spokesperson for the Times, said, "We don't have any comment regarding Ms. Miller's whereabouts on July 8, 2003." She also added, "Ms. Miller has not received a waiver that she believes to be freely given."