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

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reporter testifies again in CIA case |

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A New York Times reporter, under pressure to explain a previously undisclosed conversation with a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, made a second appearance on Wednesday before the federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Times reporter Judith Miller made no comment as she entered the federal courthouse after turning over notes detailing her June 23, 2003, conversation with Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby. An entry in her notes referred to Joseph Wilson, covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's diplomat husband.

That conversation could help federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald establish whether the White House started targeting Wilson and possibly his wife in the weeks before Wilson publicly accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on Iraq.

During that period, reports had surfaced of a CIA-funded trip Wilson took to Africa in which he investigated administration charges about Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials and found they had little foundation.

The leak investigation has spotlighted freedom-of-press issues and the Bush administration's aggressive efforts to defend its Iraq policy against critics.

In a memo to New York Times staff on Tuesday, Executive Editor Bill Keller said Miller, who first testified before the grand jury on September 30 after spending 85 days in jail, may not yet be clear of legal jeopardy.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, has also been summoned to make a fourth appearance before the grand jury later this week, and prosecutors have told him they can make no guarantees he will not be indicted.

During her September 30 grand-jury appearance, Miller testified about her two previously disclosed conversations with Libby -- on July 8 and July 12, 2003.

It is unclear how Fitzgerald first learned about the June 23, 2003, conversation.

Legal sources close to Miller said she discovered the notes after she testified.


According to a National Journal report, in two appearances before the federal grand jury, Libby did not disclose the June 23 conversation with Miller. Nor did Libby disclose the conversation when he was twice interviewed by FBI agents.

Fitzgerald has not indicated whether he intends to bring indictments in his nearly two-year-old investigation into who leaked Plame's identity and whether any laws were broken.

Fitzgerald could bring charges against officials for knowingly revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative, but some lawyers involved in the case say his focus may be shifting to conspiracy, perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges.

Libby's June 23, 2003, conversation with Miller could bolster a conspiracy or perjury case because the conversation was not initially disclosed and suggests a preemptive effort to discredit Wilson, those lawyers say.

Wilson asserts that administration officials outed his wife, damaging her ability to work undercover, to discredit him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy in 2003 after Wilson made a CIA-funded trip to investigate whether Niger helped supply nuclear materials to Baghdad.

Miller's June 23, 2003 conversation with Libby was two weeks before Wilson publicly criticized the administration's Iraq policy in a New York Times opinion piece on July 6, 2003.

A column by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times on May 6, 2003 contained the first public mention of Wilson's mission to Niger in 2002, though Wilson was not identified by name. It also said the mission came after Cheney's office had asked for an investigation of the uranium deal.

Top Cheney aides were eager to dispel Wilson's assertion that he was sent to Niger at the urging of the vice president, sources involved in the case said.


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