Another rough day on the witness stand

Judith Miller tries to explain to Libby's lawyer why her memory is "so bad."

Published January 31, 2007 4:38PM (EST)

Judith Miller is having another rough go today on the witness stand in the Scooter Libby trial. Under cross-examination by Libby defense lawyer William Jeffress, the former New York Times reporter has been forced repeatedly to say that she doesn't remember much about her reporting about Joseph Wilson -- except what she says Libby told her.

Jeffress pressed Miller repeatedly to say whether she was sure that Libby was the first source from whom she had heard that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. She couldn't say. "I believe it was the first time," she said. "I can't be absolutely, absolutely certain, but I have no recollection of an earlier discussion with anyone else, and there's nothing in my notes ..."

Jeffress asked Miller whether it was true -- as she testified before the grand jury -- that she had talked at any point with sources other than Libby about Wilson and his wife and "the issue" of his New York Times Op-Ed piece. "I remember having other conversations," Miller said. "With senior government officials?" Jeffress asked. "I can't remember with whom I had those conversations," Miller said. Jeffress then played a clip from a TV interview in which Miller said that she'd talked to both "senior government officials and not-so-senior government officials." Miller said that she was referring to discussions she might have had about the issues Wilson raised in his Op-Ed piece and how it came to be that he wrote the piece, not about the fact that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. So who were the "senior government officials" with whom she had those conversations? "I didn't say that I remembered their names," Miller told Jeffress. "That's all I'm saying -- I don't remember their names. I don't know what you want me to say beyond that."

Jeffress noted that Wilson's name and phone number appeared in her reporter's notebook. Who gave her that information? "I don't remember."

Miller said -- as she has before -- that she went to jail rather than comply with Patrick Fitzgerald's subpoena in the Libby case both because she had promised Libby confidentiality and because she feared that she'd end up being asked about "something else and someone else." Who was the someone else? "I don't know," she said. "I didn't want to be in that position."

Even on the subject of her conversations with Libby, Miller appears uncertain about certain key details. Her notes of her June 23, 2003, conversation with Libby include the words "wife works at bureau," but the words are in parentheses and there's a question mark near them. Jeffress asked Miller: "Is your memory fuzzy about that entry or where it came from?" Miller responded: "The thing that's fuzzy is whether or not he used the word 'may' work in the bureau or whether or not I put the question mark [there] to say, 'That's odd -- why is he saying this or how is this related to our conversation?'"

Jeffress read back to Miller something she told Fitzgerald's grand jury: that it's "very hard" to know what the parenthesis and question mark meant because her memory was "so bad" on the issue.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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