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 to 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 “story” by 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 “tip” 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 “on 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.”
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.