Sunday, October 16, 2005

Judith Miller and Her Can of Worms

The NYT features two stories this morning about their reporter Judith Miller who spent 85 days in jail, supposedly for protecting the identity of her sources for an article she intended to write but never wrote. One article, “The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal", by Don Van Natta, Jr., Adam Liptak and Clifford J. Levy, is an overview of the whole Miller saga. The other, “My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room", is Judith Miller’s own account of her testimony before Patrick Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury. The following paragraph is what an old editor of mine called the “so-what paragraph”. It’s inserted in an article to edify the people who have been living in a cave. This is the lead paragraph in Judith Miller’s NYT account about her testimony and will serve as a so-what. “In July 2003, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, created a firestorm by publishing an essay in The New York Times that accused the Bush administration of using faulty intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. The administration, he charged, ignored findings of a secret mission he had undertaken for the Central Intelligence Agency - findings, he said, that undermined claims that Iraq was seeking uranium for a nuclear bomb.” Okay. So much for the back-story. The only addition necessary is to mention that columnist Robert Novak started a furor in his syndicated column on July 14, 2003 by saying that Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert agent in the CIA. I’ve been reserving judgment on Miller since she went to the slammer. At first, it seemed honorable that she was willing to serve jail time because she wouldn’t name names. It’s the journalist’s right, after all, not to name names. But also, the specter of Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC hearings hovers over any demand to name names. Since the McCarthy hearings, forcing people to name names gives rise to renewed fears of sliding down that slippery slope again. But now, I no longer have a problem with judging Judith Miller. As of this morning, it’s clear to me that she went to jail to protect herself and to protect another source, which so far is unnamed, unrevealed, and safe as a virgin in a convent. There’s that hogwash about Miller needing to have the vice president's chief of staff Lewis Libby tell her himself that she could name him as a source. In December 2003, F.B.I. investigators asked Libby and other officials in the White House to sign waivers saying that previous promises of confidentiality to reporters could be disregarded and that the reporters could reveal their sources. Libby signed the waiver. But NYT executive editor Bill Keller said, "Judy believed Libby was afraid of her testimony.” Keller said he didn’t know why Miller thought Libby was afraid, but he added, “She thought Libby had reason to be afraid of her testimony." Uh huh. Read, Judy Miller was afraid of Scooter Libby, not visey-versey. Don’t forget that when the White House was shouting loudest that Iraq definitely had WMD’s, Judith Miller was staunchly on the White House side. Someone high up in the Bush administration had convinced her there were WMD’s in Iraq and she wrote articles to that effect. In fact, when the NYT came under fierce condemnation for its seeming pro-WMD bias, Keller told Miller she was off the Iraq beat. And then there’s the part about NYT’s lawyer Floyd Abrams wanting Patrick Fitzgerald to question Miller only on conversations she’d had with Libby about Wilson/Plame. Plus the fact that Abrams asked Fitzgerald to promise that Miller would not be called back to answer questions about anyone other than Libby. When Miller got the assurances she needed from Libby (in a jailhouse conference call with Libby and lawyers from both sides), when she had been assured she would be queried only on the Wilson/Plame conversations and that she would not have to answer questions about other sources, then, and only then did she agreed to testify. The biggest question in this whole matter is, who is the other person(s) Judith Miller spoke to regarding the Wilson/Plame matter? That’s the most important question in all of this. And we probably will never know. So all this crap about Judith Miller protecting her sources is crap. Judith Miller is protecting herself and the Bush administration. Which is what she always has done and will do into the foreseeable future.


Barry Schwartz said...

I don't know that I agree. The way I see it, Miller's inability to remember things is consistent with taking crappy notes and not trying to get facts right. That's indeed the Judy Miller we've come to know and adore. Miller went to jail to show what a martyr she was willing to be for the cause of 'journalism', and in her new article she continues with the martyr act, telling us how willing she would be to remain in jail. I guess that makes up for sloppily publishing falsehoods. But (a) she got tired of the martyr act and (b) she became afraid enough of Libby and the Big Cheese to run to Fitzgerald with her tail between her legs, and making sure the rest of us know who to arrest if anything happens to her.

For note how Judy goes out of her way to tell us that thing Libby wrote about Western vacations and how she had been approached, in the vicinity of Jackson, Wyoming, by Lewis Libby dressed for Halloween. Doesn't Dick Cheney have a day-coffin around there?

AM said...

Even after reading all the press bloggers and even Judy's account in today's Times I'm still feeling ambivalent about everybodies' role in this whole drama.
One thing is clear: We may never know the whole story and I agree that Judy is protecting another source(s) on all kinds of stories. Some may relate the the Place case and others to other WH plots.
Yes, Dick does have a huge ranch in Jackson Hole, as do many other republican hondos and business persons of all stripes.”