Per Reuters, embattled Times reporter Judith Miller has found new notes about her conversations with Lewis Libby. Bring the hype:
A New York Times reporter has given investigators notes from a conversation she had with a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney weeks earlier than was previously known, suggesting White House involvement started well before the outing of a CIA operative, legal sources said.
Times reporter Judith Miller discovered the notes -- about a June 2003 conversation she had with Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- after her testimony before the grand jury last week, the sources said on Friday. She turned the notes over to federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and is expected to meet him again next Tuesday, the sources said.
Miller's notes could help Fitzgerald establish that Libby had started talking to reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, weeks before Wilson publicly criticized the administration's Iraq policy in a Times opinion piece, the sources said.
Yes, I suppose they could help establish that. Does Reuters take the position that all contacts between reporters and
journalists White House officials are illegal? It is hardly news that reporters were buzzing about the Wilson trip in mid-June, so it is hardly surprising that Ms. Miller was buzzing as well - here is a TIME excerpt telling us about the INR memo, the Pincus article, and more.
By early June, several weeks before Libby is said to have known Plame's name, the State Department had prepared a memo on the Niger case that contained information on Plame in a section marked "(S)" for secret. Around that time, Libby knew about the trip's origins, though in an interview with The Washington Post at the time, he did not mention any role played by Wilson's wife.
So learning that Miller and Libby talked about the Niger trip in June is not nearly as exciting as Reuters makes it.
However - who is Judy kidding? She just found these notes now, *after* testifying?
And legal minds will ponder this - why is she producing them at all, since her subpoena seemed limited as to dates. Here is an excerpt from a court ruling summarizing her subpoena:
In the meantime, on August 12 and August 14, grand jury subpoenas were issued to Judith Miller, seeking documents and testimony related to conversations between her and a specified government official “occurring from on or about July 6, 2003, to on or about July 13, 2003, . . . concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description as the wife of Ambassador Wilson) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.” Miller refused to comply with the subpoenas and moved to quash them.
That covered a July 8 meeting and a follow-up phone call between Miller and Libby. The highly plausible presumption has been that Libby had already testified to that meeting, thus prompting the subpoena to Miller so that Fitzgerald could get her side.
But what about a June conversation? If Libby did not mention it to Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald would have had no basis for a subpoena. Or perhaps Libby mentioned it, Fitzgerald thought it irrelevant, but then Fitzgerald asked Miller about it anyway in her recent session. The obvious problem with that idea is, why would Fitzgerald take Libby's word for the conversation being unimportant? Why not put it in the original subpoena just to gain verification?
[Jane Hamsher at firedoglake makes the excellent point that Fitzgerald, in his letter to Libby's attorney Tate, only mentions Libby's testimony about July talks. Odds that Libby mentioned a June chat? Negligible. More about Ms. Hamsher in an UPDATE.]
Fitzgerald had previously subpoenaed the White House phone logs - could it be that that call was not noted there? Maybe - Cooper's call to Rove apparently slipped through this system as well (by the subtle ploy of calling the main switchboard and being reconnected there to Libby. Whose job it it to log the redirected calls, which must occur all the time?). IF that is what happened, I could see where Fitzgerald might find these errors to be troubling, although we don't have any real idea how fool-proof the White House call-logging systems actually is (has anyone performed and published any sort of "Call Capture" evaluation and determined an "Overlooked" rate?)
On the other hand, Fitzgerald had also asked for the White House Iraq Group contacts, but for the "wrong" dates:
The subpoenas also seek documents from July 6 to July 30 relating to the White House Iraq Group, a group of communications, political, national security and legislative aides who met weekly in the Situation Room.
And why is Ms. First Amendment all talkative suddenly? Shouldn't she hold out for a new subpoena, and a chance to go back to jail? Or is she facing a legal threat herself?
Let's add that the theory that Miller was protecting Libby, even though Libby had "waived" confidentiality, goes up a point or two. The notion - Ms. Miller knew she had talked to Libby about Wilson in June. She took one look at the subpoena, and inferred that Fitzgerald did not know about the chat because Libby had not mentioned it. She then surmised that, regardless of the original waiver, her full and complete testimony could cause problems for Libby.
This seems like a terrible time for Libby to be surprising Fitzgerald with new, relevant testimony.
STRAY THOUGHT: Regarding the rumor of twenty-two indictments: IF Fitzgerald has decided that any talk about the Wilson trip, not just talk about his wife, was a leak of classified info (which it was), then the list of possible suspects widens enormously - anyone who talked to a reporter about the Wilson trip committed a crime, whether they mentioned the wife or not.
Would the indictments look silly, since Tenet effectively de-classified the trip with his July 11 statement? Maybe, but they might be useful bargaining chips.
UPDATE: Jane Hamsher of firedoglake thinks Fitzgerald baited a mousetrap and caught Judy Miller. My can't-do-it-justice summary is that Fitzgerald knew about the June 25 chat and has ensnared Miller in a perjury rap.
Mark Kleiman summarizes the theory, and, in his second UPDATE, leans towards Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft in minimizing Ms. Miller's new legal problems. Put me with TalkLeft - I think that if Fitzgerald had evidence of a June talk, he would have been obliged to mention it in the subpoena. My tip to Dems - focus on Libby's problems.