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Secret Service Records Prompted Key Miller Testimony
By Murray Waas, special to National Journal
National Journal Group Inc.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller told the federal grand jury in the CIA leak case that she might have met with I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby on June 23, 2003 only after prosecutors showed her Secret Service logs that indicated she and Libby had indeed met that day in the Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, according to attorneys familiar with her testimony.
When a prosecutor first questioned Miller during her initial grand jury appearance on September 30, 2005 sources said, she did not bring up the June 23 meeting in recounting her various contacts with Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. Pressed by prosecutors who then brought up the specific date of the meeting, Miller testified that she still could not recall the June meeting with Libby, in which they discussed a controversial CIA-sponsored mission to Africa by former Ambassador Joe Wilson, or the fact that his wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA.
When a prosecutor presented Miller with copies of the White House-complex visitation logs, she said such a meeting was possible.
Shortly after her September 30 testimony, Miller discovered her notes from the June 23 meeting, and returned on October 12 for a second round of grand jury testimony. In this second appearance, Miller recounted details from her June 23 meeting with Libby, with the assistance of her notes.
Bob Bennett, an attorney for Miller, confirmed in an interview that Miller's October 12 testimony "corrected" her earlier statements to the grand jury regarding the June 23 meeting. Bennett declined to provide specifics of anything Miller said during either of her grand jury appearances, except to say: "We went back on the second occasion to provide those additional notes that were found, and correct the grand jury testimony reflecting on the June 23 meeting."
Bennett said that Miller's testimony is now "correct, complete, and accurate."
Miller's grand jury testimony is considered to be central to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak that led to the disclosure of Plame as a covert CIA operative. Libby's testimony is at odds on key points with that of Miller and other witnesses, according to sources close to the investigation and attorneys for individuals enmeshed in the probe.
Stan Brand, a respected Washington defense attorney who often represents political figures in high-profile investigations, including those by special prosecutors, said in an interview that he did not know the particulars regarding Miller's testimony. But, speaking in general, he said: "What you tell your client when they go before the grand jury, is that they should be truthful, be thorough, and not hold anything back. You don't want to hide anything or not disclose things to expose you to charges or even the perception by the government that you haven't been forthcoming."
Regarding Miller specifically, Brand said that even if Fitzgerald were to conclude that Miller had "a feigned memory loss," the special prosecutor was unlikely to "make an issue out of this because he got what he wanted from her," and might still be dependant upon her as a witness during a potential trial.
Miller was unavailable for comment for this article. Earlier in the week, she returned a reporter's phone call and left a voice mail saying, "I can say that I read you in prison" and that she was eager to talk and tell more of her side of the story beyond what she had written in a first-person account of her grand jury testimony that was published on October 16 in The Times. But Miller did not return several phone calls later in the week.
Miller's personal account of her testimony appeared in The Times on the same day as a long staff-written "examination of Ms. Miller's decision not to testify, and then to-do so" that, the paper said, included "information about her role in the [Plame] investigation and how The New York Times turned her case into a cause."
Miller's first-person account, as well as the staff-written piece by Times reporters, disclosed details on the June 23 Miller-Libby meeting, a second meeting between Miller and Libby on July 8, 2003, and two conversations that Miller and Libby had on July 12, 2003. Both accounts also reported details on her two grand jury appearances.
In her personal account in The Times, Miller said only that she discovered the notes on the June 23 meeting between her first and second grand jury appearances. But neither her personal account nor the staff-written article reported that Miller initially failed to disclose the meeting in her testimony or that she was shown the Secret Service visitation logs.
Miller devoted two sentences to the circumstances surrounding her grand jury testimony on the June 23 meeting and notes. "I testified in Washington twice," she wrote, "most recently last Wednesday after finding a notebook in my office at the Times that contained my first interview with Mr. Libby. Mr. Fitzgerald told the grand jury that I was testifying as a witness and not as a subject or target of his inquiry."
The staff-written account, meanwhile, contained one sentence on the matter: "She testified before the grand jury for a second time... about notes from her meeting with Mr. Libby."
The staff-written account also said that Miller largely declined to provide assistance to the three reporters who wrote it. "In two interviews," the story said, "Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony, or allow reporters to review her notes."
The June 23, 2003, Miller-Libby meeting took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, formerly called the Old Executive Office Building. Libby and Miller discussed Wilson's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger in which he was looking into an allegation that Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium in order to build a bomb.
Fitzgerald has been investigating whether Libby, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, or other Bush administration officials leaked classified information on Plame's CIA employment in an effort to undermine the credibility of her husband, Wilson, who had alleged publicly that the White House misrepresented his findings to bolster the case to go to war with Iraq.
Both Libby and Rove had told the federal grand jury that they indeed had conversations with reporters regarding Plame in which they suggested that Wilson was not credible because he was sent on the mission at his wife's suggestion.
But both men have denied that they knew that Plame was a covert CIA operative when they spoke about her, or that they learned about her CIA employment through classified information. Libby has reportedly told the grand jury that he first learned of the information about Plame through discussions with journalists. Rove testified that he was told the information about Plame by Libby and journalists he spoke with as well.
The special prosecutor's probe was later broadened to examine whether officials engaged in making false statements to investigators, perjury, or obstruction of justice, when they denied or potentially covered up the original source of their information.
Miller testified in her second grand jury appearance that it was during this June 23 meeting that she and Libby first discussed Plame's CIA employment. Miller's notes of that meeting contained the notation, regarding Wilson, "Wife works in bureau?"
As National Journal reported on October 11, Libby also did not disclose the June 23 meeting to investigators and the grand jury until he was pressed on the issue.
In her account in The Times, Miller wrote: "I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I believed this was the first time I had been told that Mr. Wilson's wife might work for the CIA. The prosecutor asked me whether the word 'bureau' might not mean the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yes, I told him, normally. But Mr. Libby had been discussing the CIA, and therefore my impression was that he had been speaking about a particular bureau within the agency that dealt with the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. As to the question mark, I said I wasn't sure what it meant.... Maybe Mr. Libby was not certain whether Mr. Wilson's wife actually worked there."
Another crucial contradiction between Miller and Libby involves their second meeting on July 8, 2003, during which the two discussed Wilson and Plame. The two met for a two-hour breakfast at the St. Regis hotel in Washington.
According to attorneys familiar with his testimony, Libby told the grand jury that at the meeting he told Miller that Plame had something to do with Wilson being sent on a controversial CIA-sponsored mission to Africa, but that he did not know that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA or anything else about her.
However, Miller testified and turned over notes from the July 8 conversation to the grand jury that showed that Libby had told her that Plame worked for the CIA's Weapons, Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control office.
Libby has told federal investigators, according to legal sources familiar with his testimony, that he told Miller at the meeting that he had heard that Wilson's wife had played a role in Wilson being selected for the Niger assignment. But Libby testified regarding both the June 23 and July 8 meeting that he had never named Plame nor told Miller that she worked for the CIA, because either he did not know that at the time, or, if he had heard Plame was a CIA employee, he did not know whether it was true.
Miller's grand jury testimony as well her notes on the July 8 meeting contradict Libby's version. Miller's notes indicate that Libby did indeed tell her that Plame worked for the CIA. Her notes said, according to Miller: "Wife works at Winpac." Asked for an explanation by the grand jury, Miller has said she testified she knew that Winpac meant Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control, a CIA unit.
Ironically, the information supplied by Libby turned out to be incorrect. Instead of working for the analytic unit of the CIA, Plame actually worked for the agency's covert side, the directorate of operations.
Miller also testified about telephone conversations she had with Libby regarding Plame and Wilson on July 12, 2003. In her Times article she wrote of a single phone call from Libby that day.
But telephone records presented to Miller during her grand jury testimony indicate that she twice spoke with Libby on July 12, although one conversation was brief, according to attorneys familiar with her grand jury testimony.
The first phone call lasted three minutes, the phone record indicated. Miller testified that she believed she might have taken the call on her cellphone in a cab, and told Libby she would soon talk to him after she arrived home, although she was unsure of this, according to the sources familiar with her grand jury testimony.
The second telephone conversation between Libby and Miller lasted for 37 minutes, according to telephone records examined by attorneys familiar with her grand jury testimony. Miller told the grand jury that she believed that telephone conversation took place after she had arrived at her home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., although she was not entirely sure.
That conversation took place two days before Robert Novak published his column on July 14, 2003, saying that Plame was a "CIA operative" and that she had been responsible for sending Wilson to Niger.
Miller wrote in The Times that "before this call, I might have called others about Ms. 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 also told Mr. Fitzgerald that I was not sure whether Mr. Libby had used the name or whether I just made a mistake in writing in 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."
If Libby had in fact provided Miller with Wilson's name, that would have proved to be significant to the federal grand jury probe, because Libby himself had testified that he never provided Miller with her name, according to attorneys familiar with his testimony.
-- Murray Waas is a Washington-based journalist. His previous articles, focusing on Rove's role in the case, Libby's grand jury testimony, and the apparent direction of Fitzgerald's investigation, also appeared on NationalJournal.com