ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
There is an almost unheard of occurrence today at the Lewis Libby trial. In federal court, a journalist testified in a criminal trial under subpoena by the prosecution about her contacts regarding a national security matter. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days before finally revealing that she had talked to Lewis Scooter Libby about a CIA operative's identity. Libby was then Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Judith Miller took the witness stand this afternoon.
NPR's Nina Totenberg joins us from the federal courthouse here in Washington. And, Nina, tell us what Judith Miller had to say in her testimony today?
NINA TOTENBERG: Well, as you know, Judith Miller is a pretty controversial figure, even within her own newspaper. She and the paper have now parted ways. And she became the sixth witness to contradict Scooter Libby's account of events. He told the grand jury that he learned of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity from reporters. And Miller today testified that in fact Libby told her about Plame on June 23rd in a meeting in his office.
BLOCK: And let's back up and lay out the characters here a little bit. Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, and it was her name and her CIA identity that were leaked to the press after Joseph Wilson went public, contending that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. Do I have that all right?
TOTENBERG: You have that all right.
BLOCK: Okay. Okay. Now, what else did Judith Miller say today about this June 23rd meeting with Lewis Libby?
TOTENBERG: Well, needless to say, she said, more than I'm going to tell you here, but she said that at that meeting, Scooter Libby appeared to be very agitated, frustrated, angry. He was concerned that the CIA was beginning to, quote, "backpedal on the unequivocal intelligence that the CIA had provided before the war," and that the CIA was engaging in a war of leaks.
Miller said that in this meeting, Libby told her that the vice president had not sent Ambassador Wilson on a fact-finding trip to Niger in 2002 as Wilson had claimed, and that the vice president's office didn't know about the trip, hadn't gotten a readout on the trip. And Miller said that Libby told her that Wilson's wife had probably sent him on the trip, and that she worked in the Counter Proliferation Bureau in the CIA.
BLOCK: Now, she's a witness for the prosecution. So this testimony all came out on direct examination from the government. What happened when she was cross-examined by the defense?
TOTENBERG: Well, the direct examination by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald lasted only 40 minutes, incredibly short, to the point, spiffy. And then defense lawyer William Jeffress got up and set about picking Miller apart, particularly about her revived memory.
I say revived because that June 23rd meeting, even though she went to jail for 85 days, when she finally went and testified before the grand jury, she didn't testify about that June 23rd meeting. She didn't say anything about it. And she testified that when she went back to her office that night, she found a notebook that showed her that she had had this meeting that she had not testified about.
And here she was - defense lawyer Jeffress kept suggesting, you have all these very vivid memories about how Scooter Libby looked agitated and things that sort. And how do you have all of that when you didn't even remember about this meeting to tell the grand jury when you first went there?
And he went about this very methodically, and frankly, in a somewhat confrontational method which she bought into for awhile. And then, some of the steam seemed to go out of it both sides. Maybe he decided to back off a bit. But he's clearly trying to portray her as at best a ditz and at worst a liar.
BLOCK: It's interesting too because Lewis Libby's defense in this case was basically that his memory was faulty.
TOTENBERG: That's exactly right. And I suppose that this may play into that.
BLOCK: What sort of impression did she make in her testimony today?
TOTENBERG: Well, it's really very hard to know. She was, you know, here she is testifying about the methodical way in which she takes notes and remembers things. But she says she's note-driven, and that the notes refresh a recollection, make her remember things that she didn't remember before.
And whether the jury is buying that or whether the jury thinks that she basically is just regurgitating her notes, and whether the notes are accurate, all of that is very hard to tell what kind of a character she comes off as. Did she come off as sympathetic? Does she come off as - does everybody have experiences like this? Does she come off as, as I said, ditzy or somebody sort of maligned in some fashion?
BLOCK: And, Nina, after Judith Miller, who's next on the witness stand?
TOTENBERG: Well, I think we're going to with a fair amount tomorrow on Judith Miller. And we're aren't - I don't know yet who is the next witness. I think we've got many hours to go on Judith Miller.
BLOCK: Okay, Nina, thanks very much.
TOTENBERG: Thank you.
BLOCK: NPR's Nina Totenberg at the federal courthouse here in Washington, D.C.
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