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New York Times Suggests Libby Meant Well
Contempt Finding Is Lifted in Case of Times Reporter
New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 - A federal district judge here lifted a contempt order Wednesday against Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, after she testified before a grand jury investigating the C.I.A. leak case about recently discovered notes relating to a conversation she had with a senior White House official.
The judge, Thomas F. Hogan, lifted the contempt finding several hours after Ms. Miller testified about the notes, which she took during a discussion on June 23, 2003, with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.
"We are thrilled and delighted," Robert S. Bennett, a lawyer for Ms. Miller, said of Judge Hogan's action, "and Judy is moving on to be the great, principled reporter that she is."
Bill Keller, The Times's executive editor, said: "It's a great relief to have Judy out of legal jeopardy. And it should clear the way for The Times to do what we've been yearning to do: tell the story." Mr. Keller had said in an earlier message to the paper's staff 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."
Under the contempt order, Ms. Miller had spent 85 days in jail before she struck a deal last month with Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor investigating the leak of the identity of Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. officer. In that deal with Mr. Fitzgerald, Ms. Miller agreed to testify about discussions she had had with Mr. Libby, and she did so for a first time on Sept. 30. She has said that a central element in her decision was Mr. Libby's personal assurance that she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she had given him.
Ms. Miller testified on Wednesday for more than an hour about the recently found notes, which, a lawyer briefed on the case has said, she discovered in the paper's newsroom in New York after her first grand jury appearance. This lawyer said the notes referred at one point to Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, the former ambassador whose criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy began circulating in the capital in the spring and early summer of 2003.
On July 6, 2003, Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article in The Times in which he said that the Central Intelligence Agency had sent him on a mission to Africa after Mr. Cheney's office had raised questions about an intelligence report that discussed possible Iraqi purchases of uranium ore there. Mr. Wilson concluded in the article that it was "highly doubtful" that any such purchase had occurred.
Mr. Fitzgerald has been examining whether there was an effort within the administration to retaliate against Mr. Wilson by identifying his wife, also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. As a covert employee of the C.I.A., Ms. Wilson was protected by a statute that under certain circumstances would make it a crime to disclose her identity.
Mr. Libby has testified to the grand jury about his conversations with Ms. Miller and several other reporters. Associates of his have said that he was not part of any effort to retaliate against Mr. Wilson and that he only sought to dispel any impression left by the Op-Ed article that Mr. Cheney might have had a role in sending Mr. Wilson to Africa. [Oh, well, then nevermind.]
After Mr. Libby's conversation with Ms. Miller in June 2003, he met with her on July 8, 2003, and spoke with her again four days later. The two discussions in July were the focus of her earlier appearance before the grand jury, according to people briefed on the matter.