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Focus of CIA Leak Probe Appears to Widen
By John D. McKinnon, Joe Hagan and Anne Marie Squeo
The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday 12 October 2005
The New York Times reporter who went to jail to avoid testifying in the CIA leak case was quizzed by the special prosecutor again yesterday and has agreed to return to the grand jury today.
Judith Miller's additional testimony comes as the endgame is intensifying in the legal chess match that threatens to damage the Bush administration.
There are signs that prosecutors now are looking into contacts between administration officials and journalists that took place much earlier than previously thought. Earlier conversations are potentially significant, because that suggests the special prosecutor leading the investigation is exploring whether there was an effort within the administration at an early stage to develop and disseminate confidential information to the press that could undercut former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame.
Mr. Wilson had become a thorn in the Bush administration's side, as he sought to undermine the administration's claims that Iraq had sought to buy materials for building nuclear weapons from other countries, such as uranium "yellowcake" from Niger. Ultimately, his wife's name and identity were disclosed in a newspaper column, prompting the investigation into whether someone in the administration broke the law by revealing the identity of an undercover agent.
Ms. Miller, the Times reporter, was interviewed again yesterday to discuss conversations she had with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. She testified on Sept. 30 before a grand jury about conversations she had with Mr. Libby in July 2003.
Since then, her lawyers have told Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the leak of the CIA agent's identity, that Ms. Miller's notes show that she also spoke with Mr. Libby in late June, information that was not previously given to the grand jury.
Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy.
Mr. Wilson's initial complaints were made privately to reporters. He went public in a July 6 op-ed in the New York Times and in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." After that, White House officials, who were attempting to discredit Mr. Wilson's claims, confirmed to some reporters that Mr. Wilson was married to a CIA official. Columnist Robert Novak published Mr. Wilson's wife's name and association with the agency in a column that suggested she had played a role in having him sent on a mission to Niger to investigate the administration's claims.
Until now, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to be focusing on conversations between White House officials such as Mr. Libby and Karl Rove, President Bush's senior political adviser, after Mr. Wilson wrote his op-ed. The defense by Republican operatives has been that White House officials didn't name Ms. Plame, and that any discussion of her was in response to reporters' questions about Mr. Wilson, the kind of casual banter that occurs between sources and reporters.
Mr. Rove, who has already testified three times before the grand jury and was identified by a Time magazine reporter as a source for his story on Mr. Wilson, is expected to go back to the grand jury, potentially as early as today, to clarify earlier answers.
Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims.
Given that the grand jury is set to expire on Oct. 28, it is possible charges in this case could come as early as next week. Former federal prosecutors say it is traditional not to wait for the last minute and run the risk of not having enough jurors to reach a quorum. There are 23 members of a grand jury, and 16 are needed for a quorum before any indictments could be voted on. This grand jury has traditionally met on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Since Ms. Miller first testified to the grand jury on Sept. 30, she has not published an article about her conversations with Mr. Libby in the New York Times, though she has given interviews to the paper and other media outlets. She hasn't publicly disclosed what she told the prosecutor.
In a memo to staffers yesterday, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller confirmed that Ms. Miller would return to the grand jury "to supplement her earlier testimony," and noted that this means Ms. Miller is "not yet clear of legal jeopardy."
Mr. Keller had earlier said the paper would publish a full account of everything Ms. Miller knew, but her continuing legal exposure has prevented the Times from doing so. Mr. Keller said yesterday in his memo that once Ms. Miller's "obligations to the grand jury are fulfilled, we intend to write the most thorough story we can of her entanglement with the White House leak investigation."