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

Monday, October 17, 2005

Libby's Letter to Miller Raises 'Troubling' Issues

NEW YORK New details about Judith Miller's decision to cooperate in the CIA leak probe are raising questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and his defense lawyer tried to steer the New York Times reporter's testimony.

The dispute arose as the newspaper on Sunday detailed three conversations that Miller had with the Cheney aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in the summer of 2003 about Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson and Wilson's wife, covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

The issue over the contacts between representatives for Miller and Libby has arisen even though Libby's lawyer insists his client granted an unconditional waiver of confidentiality more than a year ago for the reporter to testify.VIEWS

The criminal investigation into the leaking of Plame's identity is nearing an end, and two Democratic senators said any Bush administration aide indicted in the probe ought to step aside.

Bush should return to the standard he first set when he said that anyone involved in the leak would be fired rather than stick a later statement that anyone convicted of a crime would be ousted, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Presidential aide Karl Rove and Libby "have been implicated directly in an effort to discredit Joe Wilson," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat. Durbin told "Fox News Sunday" if Rove or Libby are indicted, "the tradition is they should be removed."

Rove gave grand jury testimony Friday — his fourth appearance. He was warned ahead of time by the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, that there is no guarantee he would escape indictment.

Rove did not initially tell investigators that he had a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Wilson and his wife's status as a CIA officer.

"There's no question that, when you don't reveal something that appears to be material to an investigator initially, it raises questions in a prosecutor's mind and perhaps a grand juror's mind," said Joseph diGenova, a U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration.

"But it's also true, for those of us who have had witnesses as government attorneys and as defense attorneys, that people do forget things," he told ABC's "This Week."

In urging her to cooperate with prosecutors, Libby wrote Miller while she was still in jail in September, "I believed a year ago, as now, that testimony by all will benefit all. ... The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."

One of Miller's lawyers, Robert Bennett, said on ABC that Libby's letter was "a very stupid thing to do."

When asked whether he thought Libby's letter was an attempt to steer her prospective testimony, Bennett said, "I wouldn't say the answer to that is yes, but it was very troubling."

In a first-person account in the Times, Miller said that in her recent grand jury testimony, Fitzgerald asked her "whether I thought Mr. Libby had tried to shape my testimony."

Miller said she told the special counsel that Libby's letter could be perceived as an effort by Libby "to suggest that I, too, would say that we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity." But she added that her notes of the conversations "suggested that we had discussed her job" at the CIA and not her name.

Miller wrote Plame's name in the same notebook she used when taking notes of her Libby interviews in 2003, but the reporter said she did not think she had gotten the name from Libby. She said she could not recall from whom she got the name.

The Times reported that over a year ago Tate passed along to Miller lawyer Floyd Abrams information about Libby's grand jury testimony — that the White House aide had not told Miller the name or undercover status of Plame.

Miller told the newspaper that Abrams gave her the following description of a conversation Abrams had with Tate: "He was pressing about what you would say. When I wouldn't give him an assurance that you would exonerate Libby, if you were to cooperate, he then immediately gave me this, 'Don't go there,' or, 'We don't want you there.'"

In an e-mail message to the Times on Friday, Tate called Miller's interpretation "outrageous.""I never once suggested that she should not testify," Tate wrote. "It was just the opposite. I told Mr. Abrams that the waiver was voluntary."

Tate added, "'Don't go there' or 'We don't want you there' is not something I said, would say, or ever implied or suggested."


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