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Who told Judy about Valerie PLAME?

Who told Judy about Valerie PLAME?
by katerina [Subscribe]
Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 02:43:08 AM PDT
After reading the two NYT articles about Judy Miller's involvement in the Plame Leak investigation, I came away with one significant question:

Who was Judith Miller's real source as to the identity of Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative?

Miller's putative source was Scooter Libby, but Miller claims Libby didn't provide her with Valerie Plame's name or undercover status. If Judy's telling the truth about that (and while the article in the NYT indicates that wagering on Judy's truthfulness may be a sucker bet), then who did?

I suspect the answer to that question might provide enlightenment as to many of the strange twists and turns in Judy's Magical Mystery Tour. It might also might also lead us back to one of the earliest and most perplexing questions about Bob Novak's original leak: why did he refer to Wilson's wife as Valerie Plame?

katerina's diary :: ::
So let's look at the question of whether Judith Miller, despite her lawyer's assurances to Patrick Fitzgerald that Judy had only one "meaningful source", had a second source that outed Wilson's wife and provided Miller with Wilson's little known maiden name of Valerie Plame. If we take Judith Miller's statements at face value, it seems like that could very well be the case. Let's review the evidence:

1. "Valerie Flame"

In a notebook belonging to Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, amid notations about Iraq and nuclear weapons, appear two small words: "Valerie Flame."

This is the lead paragraph in today's Times article about Miller's (and the NYT's) involvement in the Plame leak investigation. It shows the importance that many -- including Fitzgerald -- give to Miller's short, mispelled notation. However, though the notation was found in a notebook containing notes of her July 8, 2003 meeting with Scooter Libby, Miller claims the info did not come from Libby. From Judy's own report:

On one page of my interview notes, for example, I wrote the name "Valerie Flame." Yet, as I told Mr. Fitzgerald, I simply could not recall where that came from, when I wrote it or why the name was misspelled. I testified that I did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby, in part because the notation does not appear in the same part of my notebook as the interview notes from him.

Judy also claims Libby did not reveal that Plame was an undercover agent.

My notes do not show that Mr. Libby identified Mr. Wilson's wife by name. Nor do they show that he described Valerie Wilson as a covert agent or "operative," as the conservative columnist Robert D. Novak first described her in a syndicated column published on July 14, 2003.

A further indication that Libby is not likely to have been the source of Plame's name is the fact that in the notes of Miller's phone call with Libby on July 12th is the notation "Victoria Wilson." Why so much confusion about Plame's name if Libby knew it? The name did not appear in the now famous classified State Dept. memo, and no other journalist (except Novak) seems to have been graced with the information about Wilson's maiden name.

We've already taken a risk by assuming that Judy is telling the truth on this point. Let's go in even deeper and take Scooter Libby at his word when he sends this message via his lawyer to Floyd Abrams in September 2004 who was representing the NYT and Judy Miller.

Mr. Abrams told Ms. Miller and the group that Mr. Tate had said she was free to testify. Mr. Abrams said Mr. Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife.

2. A Plame by any other name . . .

Despite the fact that Judy seems to have such trouble remembering how she came to make that notation of "Valerie Flame" in her notebook, the name Valerie Plame as referring to Wilson's wife obviously made a deep impression on her, because during questioning by Fitzgerald about the reference to Wilson as "Victoria Wilson" she states:

I told Mr. Fitzgerald I believed that before this call, I might have called others about Mr. Wilson's wife. In my notebook I had written the words "Victoria Wilson" with a box around it, another apparent reference to Ms. Plame, who is also known as Valerie Wilson.

I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I was not sure whether Mr. Libby had used this name or whether I just made a mistake in writing it on my own. Another possibility, I said, is that I gave Mr. Libby the wrong name on purpose to see whether he would correct me and confirm her identity.

I also told the grand jury I thought it was odd that I had written "Wilson" because my memory is that I had heard her referred to only as Plame. Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether this suggested that Mr. Libby had given me the name Wilson. I told him I didn't know and didn't want to guess.

So Judy can't remember whether Libby used the name Wilson or not during the phonecall on the 12th, but she remembers that she only heard Valerie Wilson referred to as Plame? Also, why would she have wanted Libby to confirm Plame's identity as Wilson's wife unless she had gotten that identity from somebody else?

3. The 2nd Source

In both Judy's first-hand story and the NYT article, there are many and varied references that seem to point toward Judy having a 2nd source.

Judy actually seems to indicate as much here:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked me about another entry in my notebook, where I had written the words "Valerie Flame," clearly a reference to Ms. Plame. Mr. Fitzgerald wanted to know whether the entry was based on my conversations with Mr. Libby. I said I didn't think so. I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall.

And here:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I could recall discussing the Wilson-Plame connection with other sources. I said I had, though I could not recall any by name or when those conversations occurred.

And here, while discussing her July 12th phone call with Libby:

I told Mr. Fitzgerald I believed that before this call, I might have called others about Mr. Wilson's wife.

Interestingly, Judy's faulty memory turned to no comment in the NYT's version:

Ms. Miller returned to the subject on July 12 in a phone call with Mr. Libby. Another variant on Valerie Wilson's name - "Victoria Wilson" - appears in the notes of that call. Ms. Miller had by then called other sources about Mr. Wilson's wife. In an interview, she would not discuss her sources.

Finally, under questioning by Fitzgerald, Judy seemed to have a little too much familiarity with classified documents. If Scooter didn't show it to her, maybe someone else did?

Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to examine a series of documents. Though I could not identify them with certainty, I said that some seemed familiar, and that they might be excerpts from the National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq's weapons. Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether Mr. Libby had shown any of the documents to me. I said no, I didn't think so. I thought I remembered him at one point reading from a piece of paper he pulled from his pocket.

Strange that after declaring that Libby didn't show her the docs, she decides to pull a "is that a classified document in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?" stunt and hint that maybe Libby read something to her after all. Considering how bad Judy's auditory memory seems to be when it comes to remembering the names of sources it seems a bit of stretch as an explanation of her uncomfortable knowledge of the classified National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq's weapons.

4. What was the relationship between Libby and Judy?

Reading the two NYT articles, one is left to wonder about the real relationsip between Judith Miller and Scooter Libby. Before June 2003, were Libby and Judy actually close? Again, it's chancy to trust Judy's honesty about the subject, but Judy's description of her history with Libby and her attitude going into that June 23rd meeting is interesting:

Early in my grand jury testimony, Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to describe my history with Mr. Libby and explain how I came to interview him in 2003.

I said I had known Mr. Libby indirectly through my work as a co-author of "Germs," a book on biological weapons published in September 2001. Mr. Libby had assisted one of my co-authors, and the first time I met Mr. Libby he asked for an inscribed copy of "Germs."

In June 2003 I had just returned from Iraq, where I had been embedded with a special military unit charged with finding Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons. Now I was assigned to a team of reporters at The Times examining why no such weapons had been found.

On the afternoon of June 23, 2003, I arrived at the Old Executive Office Building to interview Mr. Libby, who was known to be an avid consumer of prewar intelligence assessments, which were already coming under fierce criticism. The first entry in my reporter's notebook from this interview neatly captured the question foremost in my mind.

"Was the intell slanted?" I wrote, referring to the intelligence assessments of Iraq and underlining the word "slanted."

While it is obviousthat that last bit is self-serving and that Judy would have every reason to play up her crusading journalistic fervor in pretending to be shocked, shocked, shocked that no WMDs were being found, her opening question does seem a bit pointed if Libby was really the close crony that so many of us assumed he was. The Times article says Judy described Libby as:

"a good-faith source who was usually straight with me," Ms. Miller said in an interview.

Yet, for such a good-faith source that she claims she was willing to go to jail to protect, Judy seems like one of those friends from the old saying, "With friends like these..." Again and again, she seems to be quite ready to twist the knife when the occasion arises.

When she revealed Libby's identity to her bosses in 2004, she apparently implied that Libby had something to hide:

"Judy believed Libby was afraid of her testimony," Mr. Keller said, noting that he did not know the basis for the fear. "She thought Libby had reason to be afraid of her testimony."

When trying to explain why she hadn't accepted Libby's earlier waiver, she again casts it in the worst light.

Ms. Miller said in an interview that she was waiting for Mr. Libby to call her, but he never did. "I interpreted the silence as, 'Don't testify,' " Ms. Miller said.

After telling Fitzgerald that Libby didn't share classified documents with her, she hints at the end that maybe he did after all verbally. After telling Fitzgerald that Libby didn't reveal Wilson's name, she hints that maybe he did after all.

I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I was not sure whether Mr. Libby had used this name or whether I just made a mistake in writing it on my own. . . .Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether this suggested that Mr. Libby had given me the name Wilson. I told him I didn't know and didn't want to guess.

Finally, it is perhaps telling that she ends her first person narrative with the strange anectdote she tells Fitzgerald to explain Libby's Aspen reference.

I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr. Libby. It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference on national security issues held in Aspen, Colo. After the conference, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo. At a rodeo one afternoon, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me. He asked me how the Aspen conference had gone. I had no idea who he was.

"Judy," he said. "It's Scooter Libby."

Is this Judy herself implying subtly that her relationship with Libby is a bit more complicated than commonly assumed?

5. Did Judy use Libby to hide her other source?

Did Judy go to jail to protect Libby or to protect somebody else? Reading through these two articles, I almost began to wonder if Judy used Libby as a shield for this other source.

First of all, while there is every indication that Judy had at least one other source about Valerie Plame, she indicated to her bosses that her source was Libby and only Libby. Apparently the question of another source didn't arise.

At first she lied to Washington Bureau chief Philip Taubman about being one of the six journalists:

Philip Taubman, Ms. Abramson's successor as Washington bureau chief, asked Ms. Miller and other Times reporters whether they were among the six. Ms. Miller denied it.

"The answer was generally no," Mr. Taubman said. Ms. Miller said the subject of Mr. Wilson and his wife had come up in casual conversation with government officials.

It is interesting that at this point she describes government officials, in the plural. However, after she is subpoenaed in August of 2004, she suddenly is down to one source, one that she convinces her bosses to defend along with her.

The fact that Ms. Miller's judgment had been questioned in the past did not affect its stance. "The default position in a case like that is you support the reporter," Mr. Keller said.

It was in these early days that Mr. Keller and Mr. Sulzberger learned Mr. Libby's identity. Neither man asked Ms. Miller detailed questions about her conversations with him.

Both said they viewed the case as a matter of principle, which made the particulars less important. "I didn't interrogate her about the details of the interview," Mr. Keller said. "I didn't ask to see her notes. And I really didn't feel the need to do that.

And so neither man had any reason to doubt that Judy had just one source to protect.

Mr. Sulzberger and the paper's executive editor, Bill Keller, knew few details about Ms. Miller's conversations with her confidential source other than his name. They did not review Ms. Miller's notes. Mr. Keller said he learned about the "Valerie Flame" notation only this month. Mr. Sulzberger was told about it by Times reporters on Thursday.

But was Libby the man she was willing to go to jail for? After Judy convinced the paper that Libby didn't want her to testify,

Ms. Miller and the paper decided at that point not to pursue additional negotiations with Mr. Tate.

The two sides did not talk for a year.

However, shortly after halting all communication with Libby's lawyer, Judy asked Abrams to limit the scope of Fitzgerald's inquiry:

Not long after breaking off communications with Mr. Tate, Mr. Abrams spoke to Mr. Fitzgerald twice in September 2004. Mr. Abrams wanted to narrow the scope of the questions Ms. Miller would be asked if she testified before the grand jury.

Mr. Abrams said he wanted Mr. Fitzgerald to question Ms. Miller only on her conversations with Mr. Libby about Ms. Wilson. And he wanted a promise that Mr. Fitzgerald would not call her back for further questioning after she testified once.

Mr. Fitzgerald said no.

Judy describes this as the deal-breaker that sent her to jail:

Equally central to my decision was Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor. He had declined to confine his questioning to the subject of Mr. Libby. This meant I would have been unable to protect other confidential sources who had provided information - unrelated to Mr. Wilson or his wife - for articles published in The Times. Last month, Mr. Fitzgerald agreed to limit his questioning.

Was she really worried about confidential sources who provided info unrelated to the Wilsons or one particular source who had provided the most explosive and dangerous info?

For answer it might be instructive to read Judy's description of her telephone conversation with Scooter while in jail that convinced her she could finally hand Libby over to Fitzgerald on a platter.

When that could not be arranged, she settled for a 10-minute jailhouse conference call on Sept. 19 with Mr. Libby, while two of her lawyers and one of Mr. Libby's listened in.

Ms. Miller said she was persuaded. "I mean, it's like the tone of the voice," she said. "When he talked to me about how unhappy he was that I was in jail, that he hadn't fully understood that I might have been going to jail just to protect him. He had thought there were other people whom I had been protecting. And there was kind of like an expression of genuine concern and sorrow."

When Scooter said that he thought there were other people Judy was protecting, was he just posturing and trying to justify letting Judy sit in jail for 85 days, or was he letting Judy know that he knew that she was protecting someone else?

And what does Fitzgerald think of Judy's one source story? I suspect we won't know the answer to that until indictments come down.

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Posturing.......Judy's official accomplice in this is.....John Bolton.

They both learned of Plame during the MET and tried to hook Libby, make him the fallguy along with VP Cheney if he was involved. All of them would go down with Rove and Miller would walk out the door with her boyfriend Bolton!

Doug E.

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