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Friday, September 30, 2005

Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify - New York Times

Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify - New York TimesSeptember 30, 2005
Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify
By DAVID JOHNSTON and DOUGLAS JEHL

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - Judith Miller, the reporter for The New York Times who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, was released Thursday from a Virginia detention center after she and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor in which she would testify before a grand jury investigating the case, the publisher and the executive editor of the paper said.

Ms. Miller was freed after spending more than 12 weeks in jail, during which she refused to cooperate with the inquiry. Her decision to testify was made after she had obtained what she described as a waiver offered "voluntarily and personally" by a source who said she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she had made to him. Ms. Miller said the source had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.

That source was I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, according to people who have been officially briefed on the case. Ms. Miller met with Mr. Libby on July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week, they said.

Discussions between officials and journalists that week that may have disclosed the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative, Valerie Wilson, have been a central focus of the investigation.

Ms. Miller said in a statement that she expected to appear before the grand jury on Friday. Ms. Miller was released after she and her lawyers met at the jail with Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the case, to discuss her testimony.

The publisher of The Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said in a statement that the newspaper supported Ms. Miller's decision, just as it had backed her refusal to testify.

"Judy has been unwavering in her commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source," Mr. Sulzberger said. "We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify."

For more than a year, Mr. Fitzgerald has sought testimony from Ms. Miller about conversations she had with Mr. Libby. Her willingness to testify now was in part based on personal assurances given by Mr. Libby this month that he had no objection to her discussing their conversations with the grand jury, according to those officials briefed on the case.

Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation has centered on whether anyone in the Bush administration illegally disclosed to the news media the identity of Ms. Wilson, a C.I.A. employee. The first published reference to Ms. Wilson was in July 2003 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who referred to her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame.

Another important question has been whether officials were truthful in their testimony to investigators and the grand jury.

Ms. Miller never wrote an article about Ms. Wilson. Mr. Fitzgerald has said that obtaining Ms. Miller's testimony was one of the last remaining objectives of his inquiry, and the deal with her suggests that the prosecutor may soon end the long-running investigation. It is unknown whether prosecutors will charge anyone in the Bush administration with wrongdoing.

The agreement that led to Ms. Miller's release followed intense negotiations among her; her lawyer, Robert Bennett; Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate; and Mr. Fitzgerald.

The talks began with a telephone call from Mr. Bennett to Mr. Tate in late August. Ms. Miller spoke with Mr. Libby by telephone this month as their lawyers listened, according to people who have been briefed on the case. It was then that Mr. Libby told Ms. Miller that she had his personal and voluntary waiver.

The discussions were at times strained, with Mr. Libby and Mr. Tate's asserting that they communicated their voluntary waiver to another lawyer for Ms. Miller, Floyd Abrams, more than year ago, according to those briefed on the case.

Other people involved in the case have said Ms. Miller did not understand that the waiver had been freely given and did not accept it until she had heard from Mr. Libby directly.

Ms. Miller authorized her lawyers to seek further clarification from Mr. Libby's representatives in late August, after she had been in jail for more than a month. Mr. Libby wrote to Ms. Miller in mid-September saying he believed that her lawyers understood during discussions last year that his waiver was voluntary.

On Sept. 16, Mr. Tate wrote to Mr. Fitzgerald saying his conversations with Mr. Abrams last year were meant to assure Ms. Miller that a broad waiver that Mr. Libby signed in late 2003 was not coerced and applied specifically to Ms. Miller.

On Thursday, Mr. Abrams wrote to Mr. Tate disputing parts of Mr. Tate's account. His letter said although Mr. Tate had said the waiver was voluntary, Mr. Tate had also said any waiver sought as a condition of employment was inherently coercive.

Mr. Tate said in an interview on Thursday, "Her lawyers were provided with a waiver that we said was voluntary more than a year ago." Mr. Abrams would not discuss the question in a brief telephone conversation on Thursday.

As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett gave Mr. Fitzgerald edited versions of notes taken by Ms. Miller about her conversations with Mr. Libby.

In statements on Thursday, Ms. Miller and executives of The Times did not identify the source who had urged Ms. Miller to testify. Bill Keller, the executive editor, said Mr. Fitzgerald had assured Ms. Miller's lawyer that "he intended to limit his grand jury interrogation so that it would not implicate other sources of hers."

Ms. Miller's lawyers had sought such an assurance as a condition of her testimony.

Mr. Keller said Mr. Fitzgerald cleared the way to an agreement by assuring Ms. Miller and her source that he would not regard a conversation between the two about a possible waiver as an obstruction of justice.

According to someone who has been briefed on Mr. Libby's testimony and who believes that his statements show he did nothing wrong, Ms. Miller asked Mr. Libby during their conversations in July 2003 whether he knew Joseph C. Wilson IV, the former ambassador who wrote an Op-Ed article in The Times on July 6, 2003, criticizing the Bush administration. Ms. Miller's lawyers declined to discuss the conversations.

Mr. Libby said that he did not know Mr. Wilson but that he had heard from the C.I.A. that the former ambassador's wife, an agency employee, might have had a role in arranging a trip that Mr. Wilson took to Africa on behalf of the agency to investigate reports of Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear material. Mr. Wilson's wife is Ms. Wilson.

Mr. Libby did not know her name or her position at the agency and therefore did not discuss these matters with Ms. Miller, the person who had been briefed on the matter said. Ms. Miller said she believed that the agreement between her lawyers and Mr. Fitzgerald "satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources."

"I went to jail," she added, "to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. I chose to take the consequences, 85 days in prison, rather than violate that promise. The principle was more important to uphold than my personal freedom. "

Ms. Miller said she was grateful for the "unwavering support" shown by her husband, family and friends and The Times. She said that she would say nothing more publicly about the case until after her grand jury testimony.

Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment, a spokesman, Randall Samborn, said.

The case has been the most significant test in decades of whether reporters can refuse to disclose to prosecutors their discussions with confidential sources. Many journalists say those sources would refuse to provide information if their anonymity could not be protected.

At least four other reporters are known to have provided information to Mr. Fitzgerald. But Ms. Miller had until refused to do so. In July, the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal of a lower court order that she be jailed for contempt for her refusal to testify.

When Mr. Wilson emerged as a critic of the Bush administration in July 2003, administration officials questioned his credibility. The column by Mr. Novak said Mr. Wilson's wife, who worked for the agency, had suggested the trip.

New details about the case have emerged in recent months. Karl Rove, the president's senior political strategist, and Mr. Libby both discussed Ms. Wilson with reporters, according to testimony provided by Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter, and by others.

But neither White House official is known to have mentioned Ms. Wilson by name or to have mentioned her status at the C.I.A.

Mr. Cooper testified in August 2004 about a conversation with Mr. Libby conducted in 2003. But Mr. Cooper had resisted a subpoena to appear before the grand jury to discuss a conversation with Mr. Rove.

In July, after his employer, Time Inc., part of Time-Warner, complied with a subpoena seeking his notes from the period, Mr. Cooper agreed to testify, after seeking and obtaining what he called a specific waiver from Mr. Rove, releasing him from a pledge of confidentiality.

That decision left Ms. Miller alone in resisting the prosecutors' demand to testify. Much about Ms. Miler's role remains unclear. Mr. Keller, the executive editor, has declined to say whether she was assigned to report about Mr. Wilson's trip, whether she tried to write an article about it or whether she ever told editors or colleagues at The Times that she had obtained information about Ms. Wilson's role.

Under the terms of her jailing, Ms. Miller faced incarceration through the duration of the current term of the grand jury hearing the case, and that is due to expire on Oct. 28. Had Ms. Miller continued to resist, lawyers involved in the case said they believed that it was highly likely that Mr. Fitzgerald would have tried to keep her in jail by extending the grand jury term or convening a new grand jury.

Ms. Miller had been housed at the Alexandria Detention Center, a county jail in suburban Virginia. As a federal prisoner, Ms. Miller was an exceptional case. But a spokesman for the sheriff's office, which administers the center, said she had been granted no special privileges.

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