Miller Can't Be Sure Libby Was Source

Former New York Times journalist Judith Miller, center, along with her legal team including Robert Bennett, right, leaves U.S. District Court in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007.
AP Photo/Kevin Wolf
Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller acknowledged Wednesday that she had conversations with other government officials and could not be "absolutely, absolutely certain" that she first heard about an outed CIA official from I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Libby's attorneys seized on the hesitation and tried to portray Miller as someone who selectively remembers some conversations and not others.

Miller is a crucial witness against Libby in his perjury and obstruction trial. She says she had two conversations about CIA operative Valerie Plame in mid-2003 with Libby, who was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Those conversations are at the heart of the trial because they allegedly occurred well before Libby says he learned Plame's identity from another reporter.

Libby's defense strategy revolves around showing jurors that he didn't lie about his conversations with Miller and others, but simply forgot them. If defense attorneys can cast doubt on Miller's memory and her story, it would bolster Libby's case.

During a sometimes heated cross-examination Wednesday, defense attorneys pressed Miller to acknowledge that she might have heard about Plame elsewhere. In mid-2003, Miller was investigating allegations by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, that the Bush administration ignored certain prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Attorney William Jeffress asked Miller to recall the other government officials she spoke to and explain how Wilson's name and phone number got into her notebook prior to the conversation with Libby.

"I don't remember their names. I don't know what you want me to say beyond that," Miller said, adding moments later, "I know I had several conversations but there is no reference to them in my notebook and I have no independent recollection."

Jeffress persisted, showing Miller excerpts from her grand jury testimony in which she said her conversation with Libby was "among the first times" she heard about Plame but couldn't be certain it was the first.

"You're not absolutely certain you first heard that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA from Mr. Libby?" Jeffress asked.

"I can't be absolutely, absolutely certain, but I have no recollection of an earlier conversation with anyone else," Miller replied.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's case began as an investigation into who leaked Plame's name to reporters at a time when her husband was criticizing the administration. Three years later, nobody has been charged with the leak. Libby is accused of obstructing the case and lying to investigators.

Libby's attorneys said Wednesday that they want to know more about another Fitzgerald case involving Miller. Fitzgerald has sought to get Miller's phone records in an investigation into who leaked the details about an investigation into an Islamic charity.

Theodore Wells, another of Libby's attorneys, said he wants to know more about conversations between Miller and Fitzgerald in that case. If Miller feared prosecution in that case, Wells said, it could motivate her to cooperate in Libby's case and thus cast doubt on her testimony.

Journalism organizations have decried this trial, which could see 10 reporters become witnesses. Fitzgerald intends to call Matthew Cooper of Time and NBC's Tim Russert. Jeffress has said that up to seven reporters are on his witness list.