News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cheney aide gave Times reporter details in CIA case - Yahoo! News

By Adam Entous

The notebook used by New York Times reporter Judith Miller for an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff contained a name virtually identical to covert operative Valerie Plame's, the Times reported on Saturday.

But Miller, whose notebook for the July 2003 interview with Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby contained the name "Valerie Flame," told federal prosecutors she did not think Libby was the source of that information and that she could not recall who was.

The disclosure, in an article published by The New York Times online, comes as special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald neared a decision on whether or not to bring charges over the leak of Plame's identity.

Plame's diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, asserts that White House officials outed his wife, damaging her ability to work undercover, to discredit him for accusing the administration of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

Miller did tell prosecutors that Libby told her that Wilson's wife worked on nonproliferation issues at the CIA.

Libby and President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, are among those who could face charges for talking to reporters about Plame.

In its long-awaited report on Miller's role in the Plame case, The New York Times revealed several new details about the reporter's once-secret conversations with Libby in June and July of 2003, suggesting Wilson was on the White House's radar screen before he went public with his criticism in a New York Times opinion piece on July 6, 2003.

The Times report also sheds new light on Miller's thinking when she went to jail for 85 days before finally reaching an agreement last month with Libby and Fitzgerald to testify before the federal grand jury investigating the Plame leak.

Miller told the Times she thought Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, was sending her a message that Libby did not want her to testify. According to Miller's and her attorney's account, Tate was seeking assurances that she would exonerate Libby. Tate called Miller's interpretation "outrageous."

Viewed by some as a martyr for press freedom, Miller has faced criticism for some of her prewar news reports on Iraq's alleged weapons programs. Critics say those reports helped boost the administration's case that Iraq posed a threat. No weapons of mass destruction were found.

The Times report called her a "divisive figure" inside the newsroom who initially denied to her bureau chief that she was told about Plame's identity.


In her first appearance before the grand jury on September 30, Miller identified her source as Libby but said he did not reveal Plame's name.

When the prosecutor in the case asked her to explain how "Valerie Flame" appeared in the same notebook she used in interviewing Libby, Miller said she "didn't think" she heard it from him, according to the Times.

"I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall," Miller told the Times.

While special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald could bring charges against administration officials for the crime of knowingly revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative, several lawyers involved in the case said he was more likely to bring conspiracy charges or easier-to-prove crimes such as making false statements and perjury.

Fitzgerald could bring indictments as early as next week, the lawyers said. He might also decide that no crime was committed and issue a report of his findings.

According to the Times account, Miller met with Libby on June 23, 2003 at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House.

Miller's assignment was to write an article about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But Miller said Libby wanted to talk about Wilson's CIA-sponsored mission in 2002 to Niger to investigate whether Iraq sought uranium there, according to the Times.

Miller's June 23 meeting with Libby took place two weeks before Wilson came out publicly with accusations that the administration twisted intelligence on Iraq.

But the Times said Libby was already defending Cheney, denying he knew about Wilson or his findings. Miller said her notes from that meeting "leave open the possibility" that Libby told her Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, the Times said.

On July 8, Miller and Libby met for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel. The notebook she used that day includes the reference to "Valerie Flame."

But she said the name did not appear in the same portion of her notebook as the interview notes from Libby. Over breakfast, Libby told Miller that Wilson's wife worked in a CIA unit known as WINPAC -- weapons intelligence, nonproliferation and arms control. "Miller said she understood this to mean that Ms. Wilson was an analyst rather than an undercover operative," the Times reported.

After Miller spoke by phone with Libby on July 12, 2003, her notes included the name "Victoria Wilson."

Two days later, on July 14, columnist Robert Novak publicly identified Wilson's wife as Valerie Plame, an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.


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