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Miller testimony to end grand jury CIA probe

Miller testimony to end grand jury CIA probe
By Edward Alden in Washington
Published: September 30 2005 21:34 | Last updated: September 30 2005 23:50

A US grand jury investigation into whether White House officials broke the law by exposing a covert Central Intelligence Agency operative is set to conclude after testimony on Friday from a New York Times reporter.

Judith Miller, who was imprisoned for nearly three months after refusing to testify about her conversations with a top aide to Dick Cheney, vice-president, was released on Thursday when she agreed to testify. She appeared before the grand jury in Washington Friday morning.

The conclusion of the investigation could multiply the woes of President George W. Bush if it results in indictments against one or more of his officials. It follows the resignation of Tom DeLay as House Republican leader after a Texas criminal indictment this week for alleged campaign finance fraud, and continued fall-out over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

The probe, led by Chicago prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, was launched after a newspaper columnist in 2003 printed the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent. Mr Fitzgerald is investigating whether White House officials illegally disclosed Ms Plame's name in order to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Mr Wilson, who was sent on a CIA fact-finding mission regarding Iraq's alleged nuclear programme, embarrassed the administration by later publicly questioning intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium for a nuclear bomb.

The two-year investigation could end this month with no charges being laid. But any indictments could prove damaging for the administration, which has so far escaped political consequences over its insistence in the run-up to the war that Iraq possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear weapons.

One of the reporters who has already testified before the grand jury, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, disclosed that one of his sources for stories about the Plame/Wilson affair was Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Ms Miller's source was Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Mr Cheney. Ms Miller, however, never wrote a story based on that conversation, and Mr Cooper says he told the grand jury that neither Mr Rove nor Mr Libby disclosed to him Ms Plame's name or her covert status.

No details have yet emerged of the grand jury testimony of Robert Novak, the columnist who first revealed Ms Plame's identity. Ms Miller was jailed in July after refusing to testify before the grand jury, insisting she had promised confidentiality to her source. But following her testimony yesterday she said she had received a “personal voluntary waiver



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