TOPICS > Politics

Judith Miller Testifies Against Former Source in Perjury Trial

January 30, 2007 at 2:20 PM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: During the summer of 2005, then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days for refusing to reveal who gave her the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Miller eventually was freed when that source, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, then chief of staff to the vice president, releases her from her pledge of confidentiality.

JUDITH MILLER, Former Reporter, New York Times: I was a journalist doing my job, protecting my source until my source freed me to perform my civic duty to testify.

JEFFREY BROWN: During the lead-up to the Iraq war, Miller frequently wrote about the search for weapons of mass destruction. Libby allegedly disclosed Valerie Plame’s identity to Miller as part of a White House effort to discredit Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had publicly disputed a key part of the Bush administration’s intelligence on WMD.

Libby is charged with lying during a federal investigation into the leak. This afternoon, Miller, who left the Times more than a year ago, was called to testify about her conversations with Libby.

And once again, today Carol Leonnig was in the courtroom for the Washington Post, and once again she’s with us to describe what happened.

Carol, welcome back.

CAROL LEONNIG, The Washington Post: Thank you, Jeff.

A 'sad tale for journalists'

JEFFREY BROWN: So what is the headline out of Judith Miller's testimony today?

CAROL LEONNIG: Well, it really is in two parts. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller's testimony was very much anticipated, because it was going to be the first time she came forward and told the entire public what kind of conversations she had with Scooter Libby in the spring and the summer of 2003.

Now, this is not a surprise to most people covering this case. In the indictment, we learned that she said and testified that Scooter Libby, in a secret meeting in June 2003, told her about Joseph Wilson and told her that this prominent critic of the war at that time, that his wife worked with the CIA.

On the stand again today, she said that he and she met privately on July 8, 2003, and he told her more details about the wife and her role in counterproliferation in the CIA.

What I think was the most interesting thing about her testimony today was, one, it foreshadows or tells -- it presages the beginning of a sort of sad tale for journalists, which is many prominent reporters are going to be called for the first time in this criminal trial to testify for or against a government official. And for many of them, that person was their confidential source. That's a pretty painful thing to see unfold in court for a lot of reporters.

The other thing that was important about her testimony was that she went into great detail about how agitated Scooter Libby was when she met with him in June and also in July, and how she never said to him anything about other reporters knowing about this.

He was just really angry, complaining about the CIA, saying that the CIA was trying to blame the White House for using bad intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. And in that context is how, she said, he brought up Plame, Valerie Plame, and her husband, and Plame's role at the CIA.

Miller's cross-examination

JEFFREY BROWN: So what happened when the defense got its chance at her? Did they try to get at her credibility or her memory of these meetings?

CAROL LEONNIG: They sure did, Jeff. They went really pretty hard at her, more than I have seen them go after the other witnesses, six witnesses before her, most of them government officials. She's the first journalist to testify.

And defense attorney Bill Jeffers repeatedly said, "How is it, exactly, Ms. Miller," in a pretty dismissive tone, "How is it, Ms. Miller, that you cannot remember or did not remember this June 2003 conversation when you testified before the grand jury?"

Judy Miller explained repeatedly that she refreshed her recollection when the special prosecutor in this case, special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, told her to go back to her notebooks. She said she found her notebooks in a shopping bag under her desk, she looked at them, she saw the notes of her conversation with Libby, and it all came back to her.

She said the thing that really stuck in her mind was that Scooter Libby had mentioned a bureau within the agency. At first she was confused; she wondered if it was the FBI. But then she realized it was a bureau within the CIA that worked on nonproliferation issues. And for her, that was very memorable.

JEFFREY BROWN: And the defense, I gather, also asked her or tried to ask her about other anonymous sources that she had.

CAROL LEONNIG: Yes, an amazing irony unfolded today in the court, when, after there was much discussion about her memory or faulty or not, Bill Jeffers asked, "Ms. Miller, exactly who else did you share this information with? Who else did you tell before Ms. Plame's identity was revealed in Bob Novak's column on July 14th?"

Remember, all these dates are important. June, conversation with Libby. July 8th, conversation with Libby. July 14th, Novak's column comes out and, for the first time, reveals her identity. Bill Jeffers then said, "And who else could you have learned this from, Ms. Miller? We'd like to know about other sources of yours."

This caused a big hubbub in the court this afternoon. The trial proceedings were halted temporarily while there was a discussion. The jury was excused. The judge wanted to talk to Judy Miller's attorney, the very respected Bob Bennett, about, how do you feel about your client being asked some of these questions?

It was very clear that, you know, what Judy Miller had almost gone to jail -- what she had gone to jail for was this waiver that she said she hadn't received from Scooter Libby. She said she finally did receive it. She came out of jail. She testified on the agreement that it would only be about Libby. And then, today, three years later, after all this controversy has begun, she's asked to talk about other sources that she fought so hard not to discuss.

David Addington's testimony

JEFFREY BROWN: So where does this leave the case for the prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald? We also heard today he also had Mr. Addington, who is now the chief of staff, Mr. Libby's former position as chief of staff, to the vice president, and yesterday the former press spokesman for the president, Ari Fleischer.

CAROL LEONNIG: Yes. And Addington's testimony -- remember, David Addington is kind of a mysterious figure. He's the person behind a lot of controversial administration legal opinions. He's considered an incredibly smart person who's given the president and the vice president his counsel about a lot of things that have to do with the war on terror.

And so here's this rare opportunity for people to see what he's talking about. But mostly, in this case, his testimony for the government was that he had had a conversation with Scooter Libby. And in this conversation -- it was after the criminal investigation had begun -- Scooter came to his office and said, "I just want you to know I didn't do it."

And then he asked him some information about what could be perceived as criminal, in this information he provided to reporters: How would you know whether or not a CIA agent was covert? What would it take to violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act?

That was pretty interesting, because you could, if you're a juror, perceive that as Libby already trying to figure out whether or not he had a criminal problem.

On the other hand, for the defense, the defense repeatedly used Mr. Addington's presence to introduce testimony about documents he received at the vice president's office, subpoenas for documents. And in these subpoenas, the nature of the investigation was revealed to a degree.

And the defense attorneys argued that these documents show that Libby didn't have a motive to lie, there was no reason for him to think, based on what he knew about the investigation, no motive for him to think he should lie and conceal anything, that he had committed any crime.

Ari Fleischer's testimony

JEFFREY BROWN: And I guess, briefly, Carol, I guess, with Ari Fleischer, he also brought out some discrepancies with Mr. Libby's prior memory of the way things had happened.

CAROL LEONNIG: Yes, it was a very critical piece of evidence for the government to have Ari Fleischer take the stand and say, "I know exactly when this lunch took place. I flew off to Africa in the afternoon, on July 7th. But in midday, I had a lunch date with Scooter Libby. He never had lunch with me before. He never really told me any other information before. And in this rare instance, he shared with me this information, that Joe Wilson's wife works at the CIA."

And Fleischer said he went on, after hearing this also expressed by Dan Bartlett, in an offhand remark, he went on to share some of that information with other reporters.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right. Carol Leonnig, thanks again for the latest update.

CAROL LEONNIG: Thank you, Jeff.