By Amy Goldstein and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 2:20 PM
Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller is due to testify today about conversations and a breakfast meeting she had with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in which she has said the vice president's former chief of staff told her the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.
Miller will be the first of a series of prominent journalists who, in an unusual spectacle, are to be called as witnesses for prosecutors or defense attorneys in Libby's perjury trial to discuss what had been confidential conversations with Bush administration sources. Her appearance this afternoon will be a reminder for the first time in the week-old trial of a passionate debate over the protections of the First Amendment that the case has stirred.
Libby is charged with five felonies for allegedly lying to FBI agents and a grand jury investigating whether any administration officials illegally disclosed the name of a covert CIA officer. He has pleaded not guilty to the two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing justice. He has not been accused of the leak itself.
Prosecutors allege that Libby deliberately lied to investigators to mask his role in revealing the identity of Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. A few months after the Iraq war began, Wilson publicly criticized President Bush, saying the president had tried to justify the war by including in a State of the Union address "twisted" intelligence from a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa in which Wilson had concluded there was no basis to reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium to make nuclear weapons from the nation of Niger.
Libby's attorneys counter that, if their client had told investigators the wrong thing about his conversations with journalists, it was an innocent mistake because they had been insignificant amid his crushing workload on national security matters.
This morning, Cheney's current chief of staff, David S. Addington, who was at the time the vice president's legal counsel, finished testifying. He told the jury that, in September, 2003, just as the leak investigation was beginning, Libby raised the subject once when they were alone in Libby's office in the White House's Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Addington said that he first cautioned Libby that, as a lawyer for the government rather than his personal attorney, he could not promise that anything Libby told him would be privileged. Libby replied, "Thank you for the professional warning. I just want to say I didn't do it," Addington testified. Addington said he did not inquire what "it" Libby was referring to.
According to Addington, who once worked as a lawyer at the CIA, Libby then asked him how someone could know whether a CIA employee was working undercover. Addington said he replied, "if you just met them . . . you wouldn't know."
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Theodore V. Wells Jr., Addington made clear -- through a series of memos, letters and subpoenas relating to an order by the Justice Department to Cheney's office to send documents involved in the investigation -- that Libby was quite aware of the probe.
Wells also showed the jury a page of notes, with both Libby and Cheney's handwriting on it, in which the vice president was displaying his annoyance that then-press secretary Scott McClellan had told White House reporters that the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, had not leaked any classified information, but did not say the same of Libby. In the top half of the notes, the part in Cheney's scrawl, the vice president indicated that he had told McClellan, "It was ridiculous about Karl, and it is ridiculous about Libby" and that Libby "did not leak classified information." Cheney also said that Libby had not been the source of a column in July 2003 by conservative columnist Robert D. Novak that contained the first public mention of Plame's name.
During the investigation, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald compelled Miller and several other journalists to appear before a grand jury and, in some instances, to provide notes they had taken during interviews.
All but Miller reluctantly cooperated with Fitzgerald once their administration sources waived the confidentiality they had initially demanded as a condition of the interviews. Miller, on the other hand, went to jail for 85 days in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to avoid disclosing private conversations with administration officials.
In August 2004, the grand jury investigating the leak issued subpoenas to Miller seeking documents and her testimony regarding her conversations with Libby about Plame.
That October, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Thomas F. Hogan, found Miller in contempt for refusing to comply. Miller appealed, and the following June, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Days later, Hogan ordered her to jail, chiding her that she was mistaken in believing she was defending a fair press. The judge emphasized that the source Miller "alleges she is protecting" already had freed her from her promise of confidentiality, and he told her that her source may have been providing information, not for the noble purpose of shedding light on improper government secrets, but to discredit a critic of the administration.
After her 2 1/2 months at Alexandria Detention Center, Miller decided to leave jail and testify, in part because of a letter Libby had sent her, urging her to return to work. In the letter, Libby wrote: "You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life."
On Sept. 30, 2005, a day after she left jail and less than a month before Libby was indicted, Miller went before the grand jury. She retired from the Times that November.