Miller testifies Libby told her about Plame

by Liz Halloran, US News and World Report

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified in the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial today that in a private meeting on June 23, 2003, at the Old Executive Office Building, Libby told her that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for "the bureau."

"I quickly understood he was referring to the CIA," Miller said, believing that Libby, the then chief of staff to Vice President Cheney who is charged with lying to investigators about when and how he first learned of Plame, was referring to the agency's nonproliferation bureau. Miller gained fame two years ago when she was ordered to jail for refusing to reveal who told her that war critic Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Her testimony directly contradicts Libby's assertion that he first heard about Wilson's wife from NBC's Tim Russert nearly two weeks later. Russert, who is also expected to be called to testify, has flatly disputed Libby's account.

"Mr. Libby appeared to me to be agitated," Miller said of the meeting. "He seemed annoyed."

She said Libby told her that he was concerned that the CIA–which had sent Wilson to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking uranium–was backpedaling from its firm stance on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and was engaging in a "perverted war of leaks." Wilson had come back from Niger asserting there was no evidence Iraq had been attempting to procure "yellowcake" to manufacture WMDs.

Miller testified that she met again with Libby for two hours on July 8, 2003, at a hotel dining room in Washington. She described him as agitated, and they spoke again about Wilson's wife.

Miller, who under questioning described herself as a "freelance reporter," was questioned aggressively by one of Libby's lawyers over her memory–which she herself has often described as faulty. In fact, Miller testified that she had no recollection of that first meeting with Libby until after she retrieved a notebook in her New York City office, well after she was subpoenaed.

Miller never wrote about Wilson or Plame and resigned from the newspaper after she was released from jail when, with Libby's assent, she agreed to testify. But she testified that she had suggested to Jill Abramson, then the Times's Washington bureau chief, that someone should pursue the story. That was at a time, however, when the newspaper was convulsed by the firings of its top editors over the Jayson Blair plagiarism and fabrication scandal, and Abramson "seemed distracted," Miller said. "She didn't have a response. She just said, 'Um-hmm.' "

By the end of the day, lawyers were wrangling over whether defense lawyers could ask Miller about any other sources she may have had on the Plame story.

Earlier, David Addington, Cheney's counsel during the leak scandal, testified that in the fall of 2003, when the leak scandal was heating up, Libby told him, "I didn't do it."

"I didn't inquire as to what the 'it' was," Addington said. When asked if it appeared that White House aide Karl Rove was potentially being protected by the administration during the leak investigation and that Libby, as he has claimed, was being scapegoated, Addington responded: "Not to me."

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