By: E&P Staff
Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter who had been jailed since July 6 for refusing to identify a source, was released Thursday afternoon.
Miller said in a statement that she expected to appear before the grand jury on Friday.
According to the The New York Times, Miller and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor to testify before a grand jury investigating the matter. She also agreed to turn over certain notes.
The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported that an unnamed jail official had revealed that Miller left an Alexandria, Va., jail Thursday afternoon at 3:55 pm., adding, “She was released after she had a telephone conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby.”
According to the Times, Libby “had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.” The Times account revealed that Libby and his lawyers asserted that they had given his waiver a year ago — and then again 10 days ago — but Miller did not accept it, saying she feared it was coerced.
Joseph Tate, an attorney for Libby, said to the Washington Post Thursday, “We told her lawyers it was not coerced. We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration.”
Miller met with Libby on July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week, according to the Times. Discussions between government officials and journalists that week have been a central focus of the investigation in the Valerie Plame case.
She was released after she and her lawyers met at the jail with Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the case, to discuss her testimony, the Times revealed. As part of the agreement, one of Miller’s attorneys, Robert Bennett, gave Fitzgerald edited versions of notes taken by Miller about her conversations with Libby, the Times said.
One lawyer involved in the case told the Washington Post Thursday that Miller’s attorneys reached an agreement with Fitzgerald that may confine prosecutors’ questions to her chats with Libby. Under one scenario, Miller won the right to not implicate others she may have talked to about Plame.
It’s even possible that it was Fitzgerald who ultimately “cracked,” eager to produce indictments but with the grand jury session wrapping up without Miller’s key testimony on Libby. Or, on the contrary, Miller might have finally blinked, fearing that the prosecutor would extend the life of the grand jury, leaving her behind bars for many more months.
It may become clear within a week whether Fitzgerald gets those indictments, or has negotiated any plea bargains.
The Times’ publisher, Arthur M. Sulzberger Jr., said in a statement tonight that the newspaper supported Ms. Miller’s decision to testify. “Judy has been unwavering in her commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source,” Sulzberger 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.”
The agreement that led to Miller’s release, the Times said, followed “intense negotiations between Ms. Miller; her lawyer, Robert Bennett; Mr. Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate; and Mr. Fitzgerald. The talks began with a telephone call from Mr. Bennett to Mr. Tate in late August. Ms. Miller spoke with Mr. Libby by telephone earlier this month as their lawyers listened, according to people briefed on the matter. It was then that Mr. Libby told Ms. Miller that she had his personal and voluntary waiver.
“But the discussions were at times strained, with Mr. Libby and Mr. Tate asserting that they communicated their voluntary waiver to Ms. Miller’s lawyers more than year ago, according to those briefed on the case. Mr. Libby wrote to Ms. Miller in mid-September, saying that he believed her lawyers understood that his waiver was voluntary.
“Others involved in the case have said that Ms. Miller did not understand that the waiver had been freely given and did not accept it until she had heard from him directly.”
In a written statement today, Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said that Fitzgerald had assured Miller’s lawyer that “he intended to limit his grand jury interrogation so that it would not implicate other sources of hers.” He said that Fitzgerald had cleared the way to an agreement by assuring Miller and her source that he would not regard a conversation between the two about a possible waiver as an obstruction of justice.
Miller said she believed the agreement between her lawyers and Fitzgerald “satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources.” She added: “I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. I chose to take the consequences — 85 days in prison — rather than violate that promise. The principle was more important to uphold than my personal freedom.”
According to the Times story, Miller said she was grateful for the “unwavering support” shown by her husband, family. and friends and by her paper. Fitzgerald declined to comment on the matter.