Today’s New York Times article about Judith Miller’s testimony before the grand jury investigating whether Bush Administration officials revealed Valerie Wilson’s CIA identity is a veritable tidal wave of leaked (and provocative) information. In this passage, one of Libby’s top aides (apparently) provides detailed information about what Libby said before the grand jury (if Libby himself had provided this information he probably would’ve been violating the law, but I guess his aide can do it for him somehow without violating a law??):
One Libby associate has given details about his testimony in two grand jury appearances.
…Mr. Libby has said, he spoke with reporters, including Ms. Miller. He told her that the vice president had not sent Mr. Wilson to Africa. Mr. Libby also spoke to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, who has written, “Libby told me Cheney had not been responsible for Wilson’s trip.”
In his conversation with Ms. Miller, Mr. Libby added another detail. He said that he had heard reports that Mr. Wilson’s wife had something to do with sending him on the trip. But he has said he did not know her name or position at the agency.
Isn’t that interesting. Libby “knew” that Ms. Wilson had helped arrange the (allegedly CIA-initiated) trip for her husband, yet didn’t know her name or position at the agency. So first of all, it means Libby admits he knew she worked for the CIA. You mean to tell me he and his staff did incomplete research on Ms. Wilson, finding out that she worked for the CIA, but not finding out what she did there and what was her position or rank? Does this strike anyone as credible?
Of course, I realize that saying Libby must’ve known of Wilson’s real identity is a far cry from PROVING he did. That will be the hard part for Fitzgerald (unless he has hitherto unknown corroboration from other sources).
It also appears that either Libby’s lawyers or Justice Department lawyers spoke anonymously to the Times according to this wording:
A lawyer who knows Mr. Libby’s account said the administration efforts to limit the damage from Mr. Wilson’s criticism extended as high as Mr. Cheney. This lawyer and others who spoke about the case asked that they not be identified because of grand jury secrecy rules.
I’m guessing that this source would be from Libby’s side. And if you add that to the above leak from a “Libby associate” it appears that Libby’s people are engaged in a full court press of the press. But I don’t fully understand what this all means. What motivates Libby to do this? Is there something hidden and extremely damaging that he’s attempting to preempt? So far I don’t see any clear evidence of that, but much more clearly remains to be known about this case.
Another aspect of the Times article that really has me scratching my head is that it implicitly questions Miller’s legal strategy and decisions:
Ms. Miller and her lawyers said she had agreed to testify because her source had released her from any pledge of confidentiality and because she had received a guarantee from the prosecutor in the case that he would restrict his questions to that one source.
Three recent letters from people involved in the case and the experiences of other reporters suggest that a similar deal may have been available for some time, raising questions about why Ms. Miller decided to testify now.
Considering that the leaders of the Times have publicly trumpeted their support for her (she even left prison on the arm of Arthur Sulzberger), it seems unprecedented for line reporters to raise such questions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they did and it seems like a gutsy thing to do. But it also seems to raise the possibility that there are those in the Times camp who don’t share the heroic view of her, evident from Times editorials and public statements from Sulzberger and Bill Keller.
And another Times story questions her contention that she decided to testify now because Fitzgerald had finally agreed to limit the scope of questions he would ask her to her conversations with Libby:
[Another ] factor in Miller’s decision to go before the grand jury was a change in the position of the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, concerning the scope of the questions she would be asked, according to Mr. Abrams [her attorney]. Mr. Fitzgerald only recently agreed to confine his questions to Ms. Miller’s conversations with Mr. Libby concerning the identification of Ms. Wilson, Mr. Abrams said.
But other reporters struck deals with Mr. Fitzgerald last year that also limited the questions they would be asked. For instance, Glenn Kessler, a reporter for The Washington Post, testified in June 2004 on ground rules essentially identical to those Ms. Miller obtained, according to an article in The Post at the time.
While I suppose it is possible that Fitzgerald refused to grant Miller the consideration he’d shown to the other reporters because he felt she had more important or different information than that supplied by them–it strikes me as extremely unlikely. Fitzgerald would realize it would look bad for him if he singled Miller out for more severe treatment.
I think Fitzgerald comes out of all this looking strong. He appears to have gotten Miller to back off her previous intransigent position and gotten her to accept essentially the same offer that had been made to the other reporters. Though I’m still not sure what, if anything he’s going to make out of it. Will this end up in a prosecution or not?
And I’m not sure where this leaves Libby. Has his position strengthened (unlikely) or is he more liable to indictment?
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