'Times' Reporter Miller Testifies in Plame Case

Judith Miller in front of a bank of microphones, surrounded by lawyers.

hide captionJudith Miller addresses the media after testifiying Friday in front of a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va.

Reuters

New York Times reporter Judith Miller tells a grand jury what she knows about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was revealed to the public. The Times says Miller's source was Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

Out of jail and into the grand jury room. New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified today about her source in the Valerie Plame case. Until yesterday, Miller had refused to name that source. Her refusal landed her in jail for contempt of court. Now the source has given up his anonymity. He is Lewis Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby's lawyer has now acknowledged that publicly. NPR's David Folkenflik has the story.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK reporting:

Judith Miller finally stepped into public view today after nearly three months of incarceration and four hours of testimony before a federal grand jury. She addressed her peers in the press corps.

Ms. JUDITH MILLER (The New York Times): I was a journalist doing my job, protecting my source until my source freed me to perform my civic duty to testify.

FOLKENFLIK: Though she wouldn't name Libby publicly, Miller made clear she only agreed to testify because he convinced her that his permission was voluntary and because her testimony would be limited to him. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had signaled in court papers he would likely have sought a second grand jury had Miller still refused to testify, which could have greatly extended her time in jail.

Many questions linger. There was confusion over why Miller didn't secure those guarantees before July, when she was sent to a Virginia jail for civil contempt of court. One reporter put the question to her this way.

Unidentified Man: What about the perception that you spent 85 days dancing on the head of a pin?

FOLKENFLIK: Miller retorted that people can make up their own minds, but that she had not previously been satisfied her source's consent was voluntary. President Bush had previously ordered all administration staffers to release reporters from any promises of confidentiality in the CIA leak case, but after conversations between their lawyers, Libby wrote Miller and then called her directly in jail this month to make sure she knew he meant it. In media interviews, Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, said he was surprised Miller hadn't figured that out a lot sooner.

The case stretches back two years to the disclosure of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name in a Robert Novak column. Novak cited two senior administration officials in identifying Plame as he wrote about her husband, a former ambassador and a critic of the White House. Fitzgerald was appointed to determine if a crime was committed. The knowing disclosure of a covert operative's identity by a government official can be a felony, and there's no federal law shielding reporters from being compelled to testify.

Novak's involvement remains unknown; he wouldn't comment today about what he has done. But Tim Russert asked Novak about it on NBC's "Meet the Press" back in fall 2003.

(Soundbite of "Meet the Press")

Mr. TIM RUSSERT (Host, "Meet the Press"): But would you be willing to go to prison before giving up the source?

Mr. ROBERT NOVAK (Columnist): Well, I think that that's a dramatic question that--I will not give up the source; put it that way.

FOLKENFLIK: But some legal observers and even lawyers involved in the case say they believe Novak has cooperated with Fitzgerald's inquiry. Former Times general counsel James Goodale says other journalists owe a debt to Miller for protecting her sources.

Mr. JAMES GOODALE (Former General Counsel, The New York Times): Patrick Fitzgerald is a bull in a china shop. What came out of the Judith Miller statement yesterday was that the prosecutor knew all along who the sources were.

FOLKENFLIK: The case is highly embarrassing for the White House, which had initially maintained it had nothing to do with the disclosure of Plame's identity. Now it's keeping silent. Fitzgerald had already obtained call logs and notes about interactions between journalists and officials involving Plame and her husband. And he had won testimony from every reporter he had sought, too, other than Miller. The reporters named Libby and White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser. Fitzgerald declined to comment today, but he argued in court papers that Miller's testimony was the last thing he needed to complete his investigation.

Ms. DEBORAH DANIELS (Former Assistant US Attorney General): There was really no choice but to go to Ms. Miller and ask for her to corroborate or refute that information that they had received.

FOLKENFLIK: Deborah Daniels served as assistant US attorney general from 2001 through last January. She says Fitzgerald was acting as a diligent prosecutor.

Ms. DANIELS: If you're going to investigate any case thoroughly, you have to follow every lead to the end of that lead.

FOLKENFLIK: Fitzgerald is to wrap up his case soon. The grand jury is scheduled to expire at the end of October. David Folkenflik, NPR News, Washington.

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