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CIA leak probe may be nearing end game: lawyers
By Adam Entous
1 hour, 1 minute ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New York Times reporter Judith Miller, locked up for refusing to reveal who told her a covert CIA operative's name in a probe that may be nearing a conclusion, works part time at the jail laundry helping clean fellow inmates' green jumpsuits and dirty linens.
Between shifts at the laundry, Miller works at the library on a card catalog of the jail's books, said attorney Floyd Abrams, offering new details about Miller's life behind bars after meeting with her on Wednesday.
Abrams, who represents The New York Times, said Miller was "safe" but that conditions in jail were "grim."
This week Miller marked two months -- 65 days as of Thursday -- at the Alexandria Detention Center just outside Washington for refusing to testify to a grand jury trying to determine who in the Bush administration leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
Abrams said Miller remained "resolute" and would not reveal her confidential source to a grand jury in the case, which could shake up an administration already reeling from criticism over its response to Hurricane Katrina. The probe has ensnarled President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove.
But lawyers close to the investigation say there are signs that the 20-month-long inquiry could be wrapped up within weeks in a final flurry of negotiations and legal maneuvering.
Asked if talks were under way with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, a Justice Department prosecutor, to secure Miller's testimony and release, Abrams said: "If there are any discussions, they would be private."
"She is there (in jail) for a reason. At this time, the reason is still there. She made a promise and, unless properly released from her promise by her source, she has no choice but to continue to take the position that she's taking," Abrams said.
He declined comment when asked if Miller, who was sent to jail on July 6 though she never wrote an article about the Plame matter, had reached out anew to her source for a clear release from confidentiality that would allow her to testify.
Attorney Theodore Boutrous, who represents Time magazine and its reporter, Matthew Cooper, said Miller's "standoff" with Fitzgerald may be coming to a head.
"Either Fitzgerald still needs Miller or he doesn't," Boutrous said. "It's who blinks first. ... You would think something needs to happen soon, one way or another."
Unlike Miller, Cooper avoided jail by agreeing to testify after saying he received the "express personal consent" of his source to reveal his identity. The first person to tell him about Plame was Rove, Cooper said.
Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, said the leak was meant to discredit him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy in 2003 after a CIA-funded trip to investigate whether Niger helped supply nuclear materials to Baghdad.
FITZGERALD'S END GAME?
Several lawyers involved in the case say Fitzgerald was likely to wrap up his inquiry this fall, if not sooner, though they say they have not heard from his office in weeks.
The outcome could have political implications for Bush, whose approval ratings are already the lowest of his presidency.
After initially promising to fire anyone found to have leaked information in the case, Bush in July offered a more qualified pledge: "If someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration."
Prominent Democrats have called on Bush to fire Rove, the architect of his two presidential election victories and now his deputy chief of staff, or block his access to classified information.
Rove's attorneys said Rove did nothing wrong and has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of Fitzgerald's investigation.
When Miller was jailed, chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said she must stay there until she agreed to testify or for the rest of the grand jury's term, which lasts into October.
But if no deal is reached, lawyers say, Fitzgerald could step up pressure by threatening Miller with a longer sentence. Miller's attorneys, in turn, could argue she has no intention of testifying and that her continued incarceration is of little consequence to Fitzgerald's case since others have revealed their sources.
LIVING A FLOOR BELOW MOUSSAOUI
An investigative reporter who covers national security and foreign policy issues, Miller is one of about 440 inmates at the Alexandria Detention Center, according to its spokesman, Capt. Tony Davis.
Miller has been in a U.S. jail longer than any other newspaper journalist to protect a source, according to Abrams. The previous record-holder, he said, was a journalist from The Los Angeles Times who served for 48 days.
The Alexandria facility where Miller is being held has housed some of the nation's most notorious spies and terror suspects. One floor above Miller's cell is Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in connection with the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Like other inmates, Miller has a small cell, which gets some natural light through a window and is "locked down" for the night at about 11:00 p.m. The cell is equipped with a toilet, a sink and a bed.
Davis declined to discuss Miller's daily routine. Speaking generally, he said, inmates assigned to laundry detail help wash jail linens and blankets, as well as green jumpsuits marked with the word "PRISONER."