NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON, D.C.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified before a federal grand jury Friday about the leak of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame after her source “voluntarily and personally” released her from a pledge of confidentiality.
Eighty-five days after being sent to jail for refusing to reveal a confidential source, New York Times reporter Judith Miller won her freedom after she and her lawyers secured a voluntary and personal waiver from a source who released her from a pledge of confidentiality.
Miller, who was released Thursday afternoon, testified Friday morning before a grand jury investigating who leaked the identity of an undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Lawyers close to the case told The New York Times and The Washington Post that Miller changed her mind about testifying after I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, assured her that a waiver he signed and gave to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was not coerced. Her testimony was limited to conversations she had with Libby in July 2003.
“It’s good to be free,” Miller said in a statement released late Thursday. “I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations. . . . My attorneys have also reached agreement with the Office of Special Counsel regarding the nature and scope of my testimony, which satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources.”
When Miller went to the Alexandria Detention Center July 6, she vehemently vowed that she would not testify, and derided general waivers, such as the once circulated among executive branch officials that prosecutors said Libby signed.
“Waivers demanded by a superior as a condition of employment are not voluntary,” Miller told Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan just before he sent her to jail.
What changed in the 85 days that Miller was jailed was Libby’s assurance to Miller and her lawyers that the waiver was voluntary and personal — not a blanket coerced waiver of the sort Miller derided.
“At the outset, she had only a generic waiver of this obligation, and she believed she had ample reason to believe that it had been freely given,” New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said in a statement.
He also said he was “satisfied that she has held fast to a principle that matters deeply.”
New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement that the company continues to support Miller. “Judy has been in unwavering her in commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source,” he said. “We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify.”
Hogan found Miller and Matt Cooper of Time magazine in civil contempt of court last fall after they refused to reveal their sources to a grand jury investigating who leaked CIA agent Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak and other reporters in July 2003. Miller and Cooper’s convictions were upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington and earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.
Hogan sentenced Miller to jail, but Cooper was able to avoid jail after his source, voluntarily waived confidentiality hours before he was scheduled to appear at the July 6 court hearing that ended with Miller’s jailing.
Miller, who never wrote a story about Plame, was the only reporter to go to jail over the issue. Neither Novak nor his lawyers will say whether he testified. Novak’s July 2003 column that sparked grand jury investigation said that two senior Bush administration officials told him that Plame was an undercover CIA operative who had suggested to the officials to send her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger, Africa, to investigate sales of yellowcake uranium to Iraq. He found it highly doubtful, according to an opinion piece published in The New York Times.
(In re Special Counsel Investigation; Media Counsel: Floyd Abrams, New York, N.Y., Robert Bennett, Washington, D.C.)