WASHINGTON (AP) – In her second grand jury appearance, New York Times reporter Judith Miller on Wednesday recounted a previously undisclosed conversation she had with Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff about a critic of the Bush administration.
Miller’s testimony in the investigation of the leak of a CIA officer’s name came the day after she surrendered notes on her contact with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby about former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Libby has testified to the same grand jury. Cheney was interviewed by prosecutors in the criminal investigation over a year ago.
The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, is investigating whether a crime was committed when administration officials became involved in leaking the identity of Wilson’s wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, in 2003.
At the time, Wilson was among a growing number of critics suggesting the administration had twisted prewar intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs to exaggerate the threat from then-President Saddam Hussein.
Bush aide Karl Rove spoke with columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Wilson’s wife in the days after the former ambassador publicly criticized the administration.
Novak exposed Plame’s identity as a CIA officer on July 14, 2003, saying his information had come from two administration officials.
Rove faces a fourth grand jury appearance.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, was asked why a person would be making an encore appearance before a grand jury.
“This prosecutor may have new information that may contradict prior testimony or may have questions about prior testimony, may simply seek a clarification,” Gonzales replied.
“I’m not going to try to speculate what the motivation is behind Mr. Fitzgerald in asking a return by any witness,” Gonzales said. “But there are a variety of reasons that someone might be called back to answer additional questions before a grand jury.” The attorney general specified that he was not discussing Rove or anyone else in the investigation.
The significance of the newly disclosed conversation between Miller and Libby is that it occurred on June 23, 2003, before Wilson’s name had surfaced publicly as a critic.
In the weeks leading up to the Libby-Miller conversation, Wilson had been referred to, but not by name, in a Times column and in a Washington Post news story as the administration struggled to come to grips with the fact that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion.
After Wilson went public with his criticism on July 6, 2003, Libby and Miller spoke twice more about the former ambassador, and Libby spoke as well with Cooper and NBC’s Tim Russert.
In the course of the discussions with Miller and Cooper, Libby mentioned Wilson’s wife, the fact that she worked at the CIA and that she had suggested sending her husband on a mission for the CIA to Africa, which led to Wilson’s subsequent criticism of the administration.
Miller and her lawyer, Robert Bennett, had no comment as they left the federal courthouse.
Miller never wrote a story about Wilson or Plame.
She testified Sept. 30 about the two conversations she had with Libby in the days after Wilson went public with a Times op-ed piece that began by asking, “Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
“Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat,” Wilson wrote.