New York reporter freed from CIA scandal

A reporter for the New York Times who was jailed for refusing to identify her source during an investigation into the leaking of a CIA agent’s identity is enjoying her first days of freedom.

Judith Miller spent 12 weeks in a federal prison until this week she secured an unconditional waiver from a senior US official releasing her from a pledge of confidentiality.

According to sources, Ms Miller testified in front of grand jury upon hearing from I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, which stated no objection to her cooperation.

Ms Miller subsequently delivered a three-hour account relating to the public naming of CIA operative, Valerie Plame to a US columnist two years ago, though her testimony was limited to conversations with Libby.

“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.”

The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press points out the waiver was unique and the only one likely to be accepted by Miller, after a general waiver, said to be signed by Libby, was offered by prosecutors.

Miller vowed not to identify her source, as dictated under the First Amendment, and refused to comply with the court’s wishes of testimony over the probe into the unmasking of the CIA agent - potentially a federal offence.

The White House has rejected claims its staff were responsible for the leak of Plame’s identity, as the columnist Robert Novak suggested two years ago, but has since seen its top advisers, like Presidential aid Karl Rove, testify to the grand jury.

Although Miller never actually wrote an article about Plame – the latter’s husband says the leak was the White House’s response to his alternative view from the President's over war in Iraq.

Joseph Wilson, a former US ambassador, says his wife’s identity was leaked by White House insiders because a New York Times article covering his field experience undermined the principle claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

The investigation is yet to conclude whether any White House officials were involved in the leaking of the CIA agent’s full identity.

In the meantime, press freedom groups are celebrating Miller as a media heroine for sticking to her principles despite a court order and almost 90 days in jail. Her employer agrees.

The New York Tines leader commented: “When a journalist guarantees confidentiality, it means that he or she is willing to go to jail rather than disclose the source's identity. We also believe it means that the journalist will not try to coerce the source into granting a waiver to that promise - even if her back is against the wall.

“If Miller's source had wanted to release her from her promise, he [Libby] could have held a press conference and identified himself. And obviously, he could have picked up the phone. Miller believed - and we agree - that it was not her place to try to hound him into telling her that she did not need to keep her promise.”


3rd October 2005

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