WASHINGTON - Reporter Judith Miller testified yesterday that former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby identified a CIA officer to her on two occasions on dates earlier than he has told investigators that he first heard the information from another reporter.
Miller, the former New York Times reporter who spent 85 days in jail trying to avoid revealing those conversations, said Libby identified the wife of a prominent Iraq war critic as a CIA employee in face-to-face meetings on June 23 and July 8, 2003.
Libby, then Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, told the FBI and a grand jury that he thought he heard Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA job for the first time from NBC's Tim Russert on July 10, 2003.
Five government officials, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, have also testified that they discussed Wilson and her CIA job with Libby before July 10.
Earlier yesterday, the jury saw notes that Libby took on or about June 12, 2003, that indicated Cheney himself told Libby then that the war critic's wife worked at the CIA.
The discrepancy over when Libby learned about Valerie Wilson is a major element in the charges for which he is on trial. He is not accused of leaking her name, but rather of perjury and obstruction of the investigation into how her name leaked. Libby now says his memory failed him when he spoke with Russert and other reporters.
Miller spent time in jail rather than discuss conversations with a source whose identity she had agreed not to disclose. Her appearance at Libby's trial filled the courtroom seats for the first time.
Accompanied to court by her attorney, Bob Bennett, Miller answered special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's questions in a calm, clear voice, never taking her gaze from him. When questioned by defense attorney William Jeffress, Miller's eyes darted occasionally to the jury and she cleared her nose into a handkerchief.
Anticipating a defense attack on her memory, Fitzgerald brought out that Miller did not mention the June 23 meeting in Libby's office at her first grand jury testimony - after she finally decided that Libby had freed her from her confidentiality promise. Miller testified that at Fitzgerald's request, she went back and found notes of the June 23 meeting, then described it in a later grand jury appearance.
Jeffress came back at her again and again over her memory of the June 23 meeting and her memory in general. Their exchanges occasionally became testy.
In his most telling foray, Jeffress asked how she could testify that Libby was agitated on June 23 when she couldn't even remember the meeting in her first grand jury testimony. He played a tape of a broadcast interview in which Miller said, "It's really easy to forget details of a story you're not writing." She testified she never intended to write a story about Valerie Wilson.
Miller primarily held firm. Acknowledging that her memory "is mostly note-driven," she insisted that rereading the notes "brought back these memories" of the June 23 meeting.
Miller testified that on June 23, in Libby's office, the topic of war critic Joseph Wilson arose. A former ambassador, Wilson had publicly questioned President Bush's justification for the Iraq war.
Wilson had said he was sent to Niger in 2002 to answer questions from Cheney about reports that Iraq was trying to buy uranium for nuclear weapons there. He said that he had debunked the story and that his report should have reached Cheney long before Bush repeated the uranium assertion in his January 2003 State of the Union address.
Miller recalled that Libby had told her that the CIA, not Cheney, had sent Joseph Wilson to Niger and that Wilson's wife worked in the "bureau." Miller initially thought he meant the FBI, but "through the context of the discussion, I quickly determined it to be the CIA."
Miller also discussed a second meeting with Libby, at a hotel restaurant July 8, 2003. She said Libby mentioned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA division specializing in weapons of mass destruction.
Earlier yesterday, David Addington, who was Cheney's legal counsel during the CIA leak controversy, described a discussion with Libby in September 2003.
"I just want to tell you, I didn't do it," Addington recalled Libby saying. "I didn't ask what the it was," Addington added.
Fitzgerald hopes Addington's testimony will bolster his argument that Libby was worried about whether his conversations with reporters were improper and therefore lied to conceal them.