I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has told federal investigators that he met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to legal sources familiar with Libby's account.
The meeting between Libby and Miller has been a central focus of the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald as to whether any Bush administration official broke the law by unmasking Plame's identity or relied on classified information to discredit former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, according to sources close to the case as well as documents filed in federal court by Fitzgerald.
The meeting took place in Washington, D.C., six days before columnist Robert Novak wrote his now-infamous column unmasking Plame as a "CIA operative." Although little noticed at the time, Novak's column would cause the appointment of a special prosecutor, ultimately place in potential legal jeopardy senior advisers to the president of the United States, and lead to the jailing of a New York Times reporter.
The meeting between Libby and Miller also occurred during a week of intense activity by Libby and White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove aimed at discrediting Plame's husband, Wilson, who on July 6, 2003, had gone public in a New York Times opinion piece with allegations that the Bush administration was misrepresenting intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq.
Miller was jailed in July -- two years to the day after Wilson's Times op-ed appeared -- for civil contempt of court after she refused to answer questions posed to her by Fitzgerald's grand jury regarding her contacts discussing Plame with Libby and other Bush administration officials. Ironically, even though she never wrote a story about Plame, she has so far been the only person jailed in the case.
The new disclosure that Miller and Libby met on July 8, 2003, raises questions regarding claims by President Bush that he and everyone in his administration have done everything possible to assist Fitzgerald's grand-jury probe. Sources close to the investigation, and private attorneys representing clients embroiled in the federal probe, said that Libby's failure to produce a personal waiver may have played a significant role in Miller's decision not to testify about her conversations with Libby, including the one on July 8, 2003.