Reporter Miller Returns to Stand at Libby Trial Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller returns to the witness stand at the perjury trial of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. She has disputed Libby's account of when he first discussed the identity of a CIA operative.
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Reporter Miller Returns to Stand at Libby Trial

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Reporter Miller Returns to Stand at Libby Trial

Reporter Miller Returns to Stand at Libby Trial

Reporter Miller Returns to Stand at Libby Trial

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Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller returns to the witness stand at the perjury trial of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. She has disputed Libby's account of when he first discussed the identity of a CIA operative.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days before finally testifying about her contacts with Libby to a grand jury. That grand jury was investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity. And we have more this morning from NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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Bloggers Join Frenzy at Media-Saturated Libby Trial

Bloggers Credentialed to Cover the Trial:

John Amato

Crooks and Liars

Kevin Aylward

Wizbang!

LaShawn Barber

LaShawn Barber's Corner

Weldon Berger

BTC News

Eric Brewer

BTC News

Lorie Bird

Wizbang!

Robert Cox

Words In Edgewise

Lance Dutson

Maine Web Report

Clarice Feldman

Just One Minute

Aldon Hynes

Orient Lodge

James Joyner

Outside the Beltway

Tom Maguire

Just One Minute

Jeralyn Merritt

TalkLeft

Rory O'Connor

Media Is A Plural

Kim Pearson

Professor Kim's News Notes

Matt Sheffield

Dean's World

Mark Tapscott

Tapscott's Desk Copy

Murray Waas

Crooks and Liars

Emptywheel

Firedoglake

Journalists have descended en masse upon the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., to cover the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff. But as the usual assortment of newspaper reporters and network correspondents clamor for their seats this week, bloggers join the ranks of journalists in the courthouse.

For the first time in the admittedly brief history of the blogosphere, the U.S. District Court in Washington has given the Media Bloggers Association two press credentials. A rotating cast of association members claims those seats each day, posting commentary about the trial.

In Place of Television

Bloggers are allowed to sit in the nearby press room and relay their posts via a wireless Internet connection. Given that no cameras, video, or audio equipment are allowed in the courtroom, play-by-plays posted on some blogs offer an alternative perspective on the trial. The bloggers insist that the posts not be read as transcripts. After all, they're not court reporters. Instead, they call the updates "liveblogs."

"Liveblog" commentaries can be snarky. ("Now she's got a pissed look on her face," the writers of Fire Dog Lake noted when describing former New York Times reporter Judith Miller on the stand). But they also play it straight. For example, on Media Is A Plural, Rory O'Connor offers a dry account of each step in the trial:

"Defense then refers to Cooper's notes of his conversation with Libby. First, Libby gave him the full on the record statement about the Niger/uranium story. It noted that the VP was unaware of Wilson's trip until long after it happened."

Journalists On Journalists

Robert Cox was the first blogger to cover the trial during jury selection. He's also the president of the Media Bloggers Association. That's the non-partisan, 1,000-member organization that worked to secure the press credentials. After two years of wrangling with judicial officials across the country, the association finally won the chance to prove what blogs and bloggers can contribute beyond traditional journalism. And this case, in particular, is an interesting battleground to debate the role of blogs in journalism, since many of the witnesses in the trial are, in fact, journalists.

John Dickerson is covering the trial for Slate. He's also a potential witness but hasn't been subpoened. On his trial blog, he shared his surprise at hearing his own name mentioned during testimony:

"I was at the Scooter Libby trial to cover it, and all of a sudden, I found myself in the middle of the case. In his testimony today, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told the courtroom—which included me—that when I was a White House correspondent for Time magazine, he had told me that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.
"He did?
"Everyone had heard about Robert Novak, Matt Cooper, and Judith Miller, the reporters who had received the Valerie Plame leak. But now Ari was saying I was in that club, too."

In his Web articles, Dickerson denies having been told about Valerie Plame Wilson. Clarice Feldman, who currently holds one of the press credentials being shared by the bloggers, recounts the moment on Just One Minute. In one post, Feldman wonders how Ari Fleischer's testimony about Dickerson and David Gregory (who, like Tim Russert, works for NBC News) might affect the outcome of the trial.

"Dickerson denied the story absolutely. If he admitted it, his two written accounts would impeach that admission. But if Gregory confirms the Fleischer account, it becomes harder to believe Russert's fuzzy denial that he had no knowledge of the Wilson-Plame-CIA account. Either way, flaws in Fitzgerald's case are exposed."

Journalists On Journalists On Journalists

The writers at Fire Dog Lake keep their site updated throughout the day, offering a playful mix of colorful details and inane minutiae — such as this commentary, when reporter Judith Miller took the stand.

"Judy back. Looks like she's doing breathing exercises, pouring herself water. Got out of chair and is now back. Gets more water. Thanks person who brings more. Looking around cautiously. Closes eyes. Breathes. Breathes out. Looking straight foward. Head darts nervously. Staring forward. Shifts in chair. Looks toward Libby's team? Looks towawrd lawyers. Adjusts blouse. Looks at lawyers again."

This particular post inspired yet another popular blog, Wonkette, to question the utility of having bloggers in the courtroom.

The jury's still out on that one.

Reporter Miller Takes Stand, Disputing Libby's Story

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller on Tuesday bolstered the prosecution of a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. Miller testified in federal court in Washington, D.C., that Lewis "Scooter" Libby had told her of the identity of a CIA agent more than two weeks before it became public in July 2003.

Libby resigned as Cheney's chief of staff after his indictment in October 2005. He is on trial for perjury and obstruction of justice for denying that he had been involved in leaking the fact that a prominent critic of the Bush administration – former Ambassador Joseph Wilson – was married to a CIA agent. Under some circumstances, the disclosure of an undercover agent's identity can be a federal crime, though that specific offense was never alleged in this case.

Libby told investigators that he believed that he had learned of former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson's existence from other reporters – just before syndicated columnist Robert Novak cited her in print on July 14, 2003.

But Miller testified under oath Tuesday that Libby told her about Valerie Plame Wilson's connection to former Ambassador Wilson on June 23, 2003. Libby seemed agitated, she said, that news outlets reported Vice President Cheney had sent Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger, to determine whether Iraqi officials had attempted to obtain nuclear materials there.

Bush administration officials declared that Saddam Hussein sought to do just that. But Wilson concluded otherwise.

Libby told Miller that the CIA had embarked on a "perverted war of leaks" to distance itself from the case made by the White House for invading Iraq in 2003, given the lack of evidence of weapons for mass destruction there. According to Miller, Libby brought up Wilson's wife as he insisted that the CIA, not Cheney, had sent Wilson on the trip.

"He said that his wife – referring to Wilson – worked in the bureau," Miller recalled. "In the beginning, my understanding of the bureau meant the FBI... In the context of the conversation, it became quickly clear he was referring to the CIA."

Miller, a Pulitzer Prize winner, testified very reluctantly. She spent 85 days in a Virginia jail back in 2005, after failing to get federal judges to quash a subpoena from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. She agreed to testify only after Libby sent her a letter releasing her from the promise to protect him as an anonymous source.

Miller's role in the leak case led to her forced departure from the Times. Editors there claimed she had not been forthcoming about her conversations with Libby and other sources in the case.

Miller spoke with Libby three times about former Ambassador Wilson, his charges against the administration, and Valerie Plame Wilson. But when Miller first testified to the grand jury, she did not reveal her June 23 meeting with Libby – and had to return to the grand jury to do so.

Libby's defense lawyer, William Jeffress, questioned Miller tartly about her memory, repeatedly seeking to undermine her credibility as a witness.

"Do you have a good memory?" Jeffress asked.

"About some things," Miller replied.

She said she recalled the June 23rd meeting only after re-reading her notes. Jeffress later asked whether she could even recall the question he had just asked her.

In addition, Jeffress' questioning appeared to dovetail with the argument that Libby's memories of his own behavior may have been shaky – but innocently so.

Earlier in the day, former Cheney legal counsel David Addington testified that Libby had denied having anything to do with the leak back in September 2003. Addington testified that Libby told him at a meeting in the Old Executive Office Building, "I just want you to know, I didn't do it."

Addington replaced Libby as Cheney's chief of staff after Libby was indicted and resigned. Addington testified that during the September 2003 meeting, Libby asked how someone would know whether a CIA agent were undercover. That's a key element to the statute that led to Fitzgerald's investigation. Addington testified that he replied, "You'd only know if they told you."

Libby's lawyers also repeatedly pushed the idea that the Bush White House had decided to sacrifice Libby in order to save Karl Rove, a key presidential adviser. Then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan first told reporters in mid-September 2003 that Rove had nothing to do with the leak – though later it was shown that Rove had been involved.

Libby pressured Cheney to demand that he be defended, too. In a memo released Tuesday, Cheney expresses anger over the White House's failure to protect Libby:

His note said: "Has to happen today. Call out to key press. Say same thing about Scooter as Karl. Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

Several weeks passed before McClellan made claims defending Libby's innocence in the leak case.

Addington testified that he asked Dan Bartlett, a senior White House communications aide, why the press office had said anything publicly about a criminal investigation.

"I've been in government 30 years, and I know there are three things a press office shouldn't do," Addington said. The first two are comment on intelligence matters or troop movements, he said, adding: "The third thing you don't talk about is a criminal investigation, because frankly, you don't know, and you haven't done an investigation."

Addington testified that Bartlett's answer threw him for a loop: "His reaction was, 'Your boss was the one who wanted it.' And then I shut up."