Transcripts Reveal Reporter's Role in Plame Outing
Transcripts Reveal Reporter's Central Role in Plame Outing
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Thursday 06 July 2006
Notebooks belonging to former New York Times reporter Judith Miller indicate she may have been told about covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson by another White House official before her first meeting in late June 2003 with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted last year related to his role in the Plame-Wilson leak, an attorney representing Libby claims.
According to a May 16, 2006, court transcript obtained by Truthout, Libby attorney William Jeffress told US District Court judge Reggie B. Walton that redacted versions of Miller's notebooks turned over to the defense during the discovery phase of the Libby criminal proceedings show that "Ms. Miller was investigating and focusing on [former Ambassador Joseph] Wilson before the very first time that she met with Mr. Libby, that is before June 23, 2003."
"There are numerous entries throughout those notebooks to 'V.F.,' or 'Victoria Wilson,' or to 'Valerie Wilson,' all of which indicate that she [Miller] is talking to someone else about Mr. Wilson's wife," Jeffress said, according to a copy of the 128-page transcript. "What she learned and when she learned it about Mr. Wilson's wife is extremely - it is right at the heart of this case."
Jeffress claims that Miller's notes contain suspicious markings, such as the use of parentheses referring to Plame-Wilson's work at the "bureau." And in an entry dating to a meeting Libby and Miller had on July 8, 2003, Miller's notes indicate that Plame-Wilson works for "WINPAC" or Weapons Intelligence, Proliferation and Arms Control, and includes a question mark at the end of the entry.
Additionally, prior to Miller's interview with Libby, Jeffress claims, Miller had already written down Plame-Wilson's name in her notebook; however, it was inscribed in her notes as "Victoria Wilson," meaning that the disclosure came from someone other than Libby, Jeffress told Walton.
Countering allegations raised by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that Libby and other White House officials were engaged in a "concerted effort" to discredit Wilson by leaking his wife's covert CIA status and identity to the media, Jeffress said Libby was only speaking to reporters to prove that Wilson's claims about flawed Iraqi intelligence had no merit.
"I think it is certainly more likely than not," Jeffress said, "that Mr. Libby, or others in the White House, would have developed this supposed plot to out his [Joseph Wilson's] wife to discredit Wilson if there weren't the fact that the response to Wilson was in the words recorded by another witness of the vice president, 'It would be a serious mistake to do anything less than full disclosure' ... that's what Mr. Libby was about, about getting out the truth."
The May 16th hearing involving Libby's attorneys and lawyers representing NBC News, the New York Times, Time magazine, and reporters including Miller, Andrea Mitchell, and Matthew Cooper of Time, was held to hear arguments about the media companies' refusal to turn over reporter's notes to Libby's defense team.
In a previously undisclosed development, Massimo Calabresi, a Time magazine reporter who shared a byline with Matthew Cooper on the second story printed about Wilson and his wife called Wilson prior to Novak's July 14, 2003, column and discussed with Wilson Cooper's conversation with Karl Rove in which Rove disclosed Plame-Wilson's CIA work to Cooper.
"Now that is a conversation that would be relevant to show what Mr. Massimo said to Mr. Wilson as to how many sources Cooper had," Jeffress told Judge Walton in arguing why Cooper's notes and drafts of his articles should be turned over to the defense.
"Mr. Cooper had said something to Mr. Massimo, at least about his conversation with Karl Rove, which caused Mr. Massimo to call Joe Wilson to ask about his wife and about what Cooper had heard from Karl Rove," Jeffress said.
Cooper "talked to Karl Rove on July 11 ," Jeffress told Walton during the court hearing. "Karl Rove told him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have sent Wilson on the [Niger] trip. There is an email by Mr. Cooper, again to his editor, on July 16 , four days after his conversation with Mr. Libby and five days after his conversation with Mr. Rove about the article they are planning to write in which they are going to mention the wife. And the email says - talks about him having an administration source for the information about Ms. Wilson."
Jeffress said that the defense has obtained emails and notes written by Cooper that the reporter sent to his editor following a conversation he had with Libby on July 16, 2003, that prove Libby never mentioned Plame-Wilson to Cooper. Rather, Jeffress said, Cooper mentioned Plame-Wilson's work at the CIA to Libby. These emails, Jeffress maintains, may help prove to a jury that Libby did not intentionally lie to the grand jury when he testified that he found out about Plame-Wilson's work with the CIA from reporters.
Moreover, Jeffress argued that Time should be required to turn over drafts of Cooper's first person account of his grand jury testimony published in Time July 25, 2005, so the defense can determine if it reads differently from the final version of the article that appeared in the magazine and could subsequently help prove Cooper is not a credible prosecution witness.
Judge Walton agreed.
"Upon reviewing the documents presented to it, the Court discerns a slight alteration between the several drafts of the articles, which the defense could arguably use to impeach Cooper," Walton wrote in his May 26 ruling. "This slight alteration between the drafts will permit the defendant to impeach Cooper, regardless of the substance of his trial testimony, because his trial testimony cannot be consistent with both versions."
Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and will be a regular contributer to t r u t h o u t. He is the author of the new book NEWS JUNKIE. Visit www.newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.