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Times Reporter Tried to Cut Earlier CIA Leak Deal
Washington - New York Times reporter Judith Miller tried a year ago to make a deal with the prosecutor investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity but the prosecutor would not agree then to limit her testimony to Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, her lawyer said on Sunday.
Some lawyers involved in the case said prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's decision to reject the deal a year ago - only to agree last week to limit the scope of Miller's testimony to the subject of Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby - suggested Libby may have become increasingly important to wrapping up Fitzgerald's case.
After spending 85 days in jail for refusing to name Libby as her source, Miller testified before the grand jury on Friday about two conversations she had with him in July 2003.
Lawyers said her testimony should clear the way for Fitzgerald later this month to conclude his 2-year-old inquiry into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity and whether anyone broke the law in doing so, lawyers say.
Fitzgerald had indicated he could wrap up his investigation once he obtained Miller's cooperation. The grand jury considering the case is scheduled to expire on October 28.
Floyd Abrams, one of Miller's lawyers, told CNN: "I tried to get a deal a year ago."
But Abrams said that when he spoke to Fitzgerald about it at the time, he would not agree to limit his questions "to assure that the only source he would effectively be asking about was Mr. Libby."
Fitzgerald's spokesman was not immediately available to comment on Abrams' account of the offer.
One lawyer involved in the case said Fitzgerald's change of mind "suggests that he doesn't think he needs to hear about anybody else" but Libby.
Fitzgerald could bring indictments in the case or he could conclude no crime was committed and end his investigation. Lawyers involved in the case said he could signal his intentions as early as this week.
In addition to Libby, Fitzgerald's investigation has ensnarled President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove. The White House had long maintained that Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the leak but reporters have since named them as sources.
Plame's diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, has said the administration leaked her name, damaging her ability to work undercover, in order to get back at him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy.
Recriminations have broken out between lawyers over why Miller had not accepted a waiver sooner. She was sent to jail on July 6 although she never wrote an article about the Plame matter.
"While Judy Miller sat in jail for 85 days and Mr. Libby knew that she was doing it to protect him, no call came in from him, no letter arrived from him," Abrams said on CNN.
Abrams said he spoke to Libby's attorney, Joseph Tate, before Miller went to jail. "It is true that he said to me it's OK with him (Libby) if she testifies," Abrams said.
But he added: "It's also true that, in the same conversation, he said to me that the waiver (which Tate said gave Miller his consent for her to testify) that he had signed was by its nature coerced. How could it not be, he said. That's a waiver the government forces him to sign in order to stay on in the government. Otherwise he'd be fired."
Tate disputes Abrams' account of that conversation. In a September 16, 2005, letter, Tate said he told Miller's attorney more than a year ago that Libby's waiver of confidentiality was "voluntary and not coerced."
Tate said he believed Miller's goal in refusing to accept that waiver was to protect other sources.
Abrams said: "She has other sources and was very concerned about the possibility of having to reveal those sources or going back to jail because of them."
That appears to conflict with comments by attorney Robert Bennett, who also represents Miller in the case. Bennett said on Friday that "Judy is not protecting anybody else."
Viewed by some as a martyr for press freedom, Miller has faced criticism for some of her prewar news reports on Iraq's alleged weapons programs. Critics say those reports helped boost the administration's case that Iraq posed a threat. No weapons of mass destruction were found.