Will Judith Miller Talk?

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Memo
To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Update on Plame Affair

The only reason the Valeria Plame affair remains a big story is
the small possibility that when U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
and the federal grand jury take action, any day now, it may reach
into the Oval Office. That is, one or more indictments of government
officials may lead to hard information that President Bush knew
the Niger yellowcake story was pure propaganda, which helped him
justify war with Iraq, when he used it in his 2003 State of the
Union speech for that purpose.

Fitzgerald has been keeping his cards close to his vest, but sources
close to the story tell me they think the chances the story will
touch the President are no more than 2 out of 10. Chances it may
touch the Vice President have just increased because it has been
learned that Scooter Libby, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, met with
Judy Miller of the NYTimes on July 8, 2003, two days after
Joe Wilson published his column in the NYTimes. Miller is
now in jail for refusing to testify on that conversation. In his
column, Wilson charged the administration knew several months before
that Bush address that the assertion Saddam was seeking to reconstitute
his nuclear weapons program was a hoax, built around forged documents
that the CIA knew had been forged prior to their use by the President.
Mr. Bush at least altered his speech to the nation by saying it
was the British who supplied to intelligence that Iraq was trying
to buy nuclear material in Africa.

Murray Wass of the American
Prospect
, reported on the meeting of Libby and Judith Miller
in the liberal periodical's online edition yesterday. It was the
first time I'd learned of the meeting. It was also the first time
I'd learned that Miller does not have a personal waiver of confidentiality
from Libby — of the kind that Time magazine's Matt Cooper
got from Karl Rove, the President's closest political confidante.
In the Wass report, he writes:

In response to questions for this article, Catherine J. Mathis,
a spokesperson for the Times, said, “We don’t have any
comment regarding Ms. Miller’s whereabouts on July 8, 2003.” She
also added, “Ms. Miller has not received a waiver that she believes
to be freely given.” It is also unclear whether Miller would testify
to Fitzgerald’s grand jury even if she were to receive such a
personalized waiver from Libby. Her attorney, Floyd Abrams, said
in an interview: “Judith Miller is in jail and at continued jeopardy.
… I have no comment about what she might do in circumstances
that do not now exist.”

But numerous people involved in the case said in interviews for
this story that a personalized waiver for Miller by Libby could
potentially pave the way for Miller’s release. Miller’s testimony,
in turn, might be crucial to a determination as to whether anyone
might be criminally charged, and even to a potential end to the
criminal investigation. At least two attorneys representing private
clients who are embroiled in the Plame probe also privately questioned
whether or not President Bush had encouraged Libby to provide
a personalized waiver for Miller in an effort to obtain her cooperation.

Wass also suggests
the reason for Fitzgerald's delay in asking the grand jury for an
indictment is that there are loose ends he must tie up by getting
Judith Miller to testify, inferring that the President has to ask
Scooter Libby to give her the personal waiver the Times indicates
may be the chief barrier.

It does seem unlikely to me that it is the chief barrier, for Fitzgerald
could have gotten what he needed from Libby when Libby testified
before the grand jury. It is more likely that Miller prefers jail
to telling how she originally decided to take an interest in the
Plame story. We can reasonably be assured that Miller got her information
about Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame from Ahmed Chalabi, the
Iraqi who provided most of the false information to the U.S. government
about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Chalabi, now deputy
prime minister in the Iraqi interim government, has been part of
the neo-con network for decades, from the days he and Paul Wolfowitz
were fellow students at the University of Chicago. A WorldNetDaily.com
report of July 23, 2003, by Paul Sperry, mentioned her friendship
with Laurie Mylroie, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
who has also been doing the bidding of the neo-cons in promoting
the Iraq war.

In
1990, Mylroie co-authored with Judith Miller another Iraq book
called “Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf.” Miller is
the New York Times reporter who broke, with another reporter,
the blockbuster story last September that Hussein was trying to
import aluminum tubing to restart a nuclear weapons program. The
claim, which she attributed to unnamed Bush administration “hard-liners”
and Iraqi defectors, was touted by Cheney and National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice the day it appeared. But it’s now under
serious dispute.

Miller, who is close to Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith,
another noted neocon, also broke the now widely discredited story
that two trailers found in Iraq were disguised mobile bioweapons
labs. It was recently revealed that the source of several of Miller’s
Iraq stories was Ahmed Chalabi an Iraqi defector favored by the
administration to replace Hussein, and one with whom Miller has
had a 10-year relationship. U.S. intelligence officials tell WorldNetDaily
the vast majority of the information Chalabi has provided on Hussein’s
regime has proved to be unreliable or false. The CIA and FBI no
longer rely on him as a source, they say.
The surmise
on antiwar internet websites has been that after Wilson wrote the
Times piece, the White House decided there had to be damage
control, and one piece of the story put out was that Wilson was
not credible because he was a Democrat who had been sent to Niger
by his wife, a CIA functionary involved in tracking WMD. Judith
Miller might well have learned of the u201Cstoryu201D from Chalabi, who
had been feeding her propaganda on Iraq for years that she had been
dutifully reporting for the NYT. She could not report on
this Chalabi u201Ctipu201D without verification, so she asked for the July
8 meeting with Scooter Libby in the Veep's office. In that meeting,
Libby would confirm the tip from Chalabi.

Why didn't Miller write the story? Speculation is either she never
intended to write about it, or that she knew it would endanger her
career if she did, given where it might lead. The suspicions have
reached a point where the American Society of Journalists and Authors,
which had given her its Conscience in Media award for her willingness
to go to jail to protect her sources, reversed
itself
. As reported in Editor & Publisher, the Society
based its decision to withdraw the award u201Con its opinion that her
entire career, and even her current actions in the Plame/CIA leak
case, cast doubt on her credentials for this award.u201D

We should see what comes out of the two-year inquiry by Fitzgerald
within weeks, I'd imagine, and it should involve at least one indictment
for all the time and money spent on the effort. More importantly,
an indictment or two would stir the national press corps into another
hunt for answers. If the war were going well, little of this would
matter, but the war is not going well and does not look like things
will improve.

August
8, 2005

Jude
Wanniski [send him mail]
runs the financial/political advisory service Wanniski.com.

Jude
Wanniski Archives

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