News Media
Another foul chapter in the history of The New York Times closes with Miller's departure
By Bev Conover
Online Journal Editor & Publisher

Nov 11, 2005, 20:57

So the Pinch and Judy Show has come to an inglorious end, with now former New York Times reporter Judith Miller cooking up the fable that she fell on her sword because she had become the story and riding off to her own website, where she can offer up more fantastical tales.

Miller not only acted as a stenographer for criminal Ahmad Chalabi and the White House in helping to promote an illegal war against Iraq, based on a pack of lies that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but, in her farewell letter published in yesterday's Times, would have us believe that the Grey Lady refused her permission to pursue whether the garbage she was so happy to report prior to March 19, 2003, "was merely wrong, or was it exaggerated or even falsified."

Geez, Judy, any decent reporter knew at the time, as did most of the world, that the "intelligence" you were fed wasn't "merely wrong" or "exaggerated," it was a pack of lies cooked up by the neocons in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, the White House Iraqi Group (WHIG) and No. 10 Downing Street. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

If that weren't bad enough, Miller also was a handmaiden to Vice President Dick Cheney's then chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and who knows how many of the other warmongering neocons, possibly including Cheney. That's what happens when reporters dazzled by power climb into bed with their sources--and Judy has done that both figuratively and literally.

Then we have the mystery of Miller's role in the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who, after traveling to Niger to investigate the claim Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from that African nation, embarrassed the Bushies by saying it had "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Why was Miller of interest to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald when she never wrote a story about Plame working for the CIA? How did Fitzgerald find out about Miller? Was she outed by someone in the White House? Was she the conduit who spread the story for an administration official? Did she, in the end, cut a deal with Fitzpatrick to escape prosecution in exchange for her grand jury testimony? Or is there more to come in this perverse saga?

Judy Miller would have us believe that she sat in the clinker for 85 days as a champion of the press's First Amendment rights and to protect her confidential source, Libby. There are several problems with that tale.

First, any cub reporter knows you don't lightly promise confidentiality to any source, much less one who want you to abet him or her in the commission of a crime. Miller might plead ignorance of the law, but how many times are we told ignorance is no excuse? For someone who was a reporter for some 26 years at the time, Miller surely had to remember the brouhaha over former CIA agent Philip Agee's 1975 book, CIA Diary: Inside the Company, that revealed the names of dozens of agents and resulted in the 1982 CIA shield law, or she is as retention-challenged as George W. Bush--not a plus for a reporter.

Second, her story about sitting in jail for 85 days to protect her source--Libby--because she didn't have his permission to reveal his name and thereby becoming a cause celebre for a federal press shield law doesn't hold water, either. According to Libby's lawyers, he had offered to waive the confidentiality she never should have agreed to in the first place a year ago and again 10 days before she decided she had enough of jail, and both times, they alleged, she turned it down. Miller claims she thought those offers were coerced and it wasn't until she received Libby's bizarre "Dear Judy" letter that ended with, �You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover�Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work�-and life. Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers,� signed, �With admiration, Scooter Libby.�

Unlike her sister inmates at the Alexandria Detention Center, she had some very interesting visitors during her incarceration for contempt of court. Among them was UN Ambassador John Bolton, the volatile neocon Bush had to slip into the post on a recess appointment, so Bolton can carry out his dream of wrecking that institution. Now why would Bolton go visit Miller? The mystery thickens. Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw also was among Miller's visitors and was quoted by the Washington Post as saying ""Judy Miller is the most innocent person in this case." and "I really thought that was outrageous that she was jailed and we needed as journalists to draw a line in the sand in a strong but thoughtful way." Tsk,tsk, Tom. Even former Senator Robert Dole (R-Kansas) trekked to the jailhouse to keep company with Judy.

Then there is the matter of the "forgotten" notebook that she suddenly came across, while searching for additional notes, that showed a June 23, 2003 meeting she had with Libby, two weeks prior to Wilson's op-ed in the Times that sent the administration into a tizzy. According to her notes, Libby indicated the White House was looking for ways to discredit Wilson before his op-ed appeared in the Times and that Libby mentioned Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Though she claims Libby never mentioned Plame by name, in the margin she wrote "Flame." It gets curiouser and curiouser.

More curious is Miller's fabrication about having possessed a "special" security clearance while embedded with the military team searching for WMD in Iraq, which apparently was nothing more than the standard embed agreement to treat classified information as off the record until it was cleared and censored by the military, as bad as that is. Or as William E. Jackson put it, "This was the security clearance that never was--a canard." Jackson could have put it less charitably by saying it was a canard to bolster her ego and pump up her importance. Perhaps a defensive mechanism since her colleagues neither found her endearing or trustworthy.

Finally, there is the Pinch side of the show.

While Miller sat in her jail cell, Times Publisher Arthur O. "Pinch" Sulzberger, Jr., portrayed her as the Joan d'Arc of journalism, protecting her source and fighting for a federal shield law. Upon her release, he wrote, " As we have throughout this ordeal, we continue to support Judy Miller in the decision she has made. Judy has been unwavering in her commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source. 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. We continue to believe that a strong Federal Shield Law must be passed by Congress, so that similar injustices, which the laws of both New York and Washington, D.C. already prevent, are not suffered by other journalists."

But, despite all the explanations, excuses and smiling photos, when the ink hit the fan and her fellow journalists openly protested her behavior, the Pinch and Judy show came to an end.

So while current Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi, who is wanted in Jordan to serve a prison term for bank fraud, is disgracefully receiving the red carpet treatment in Washington and is looking to the December elections to wangle (steal?) his way into becoming Iraq's prime minister, Judy is out in the cold.

Perhaps Miller, who holds bachelor's degree from Barnard and a masters in economics from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, now will have the time to take a Journalism 101 course and, if she still has access, the White House Ethics Classes. That's in between TV appearances, such as last night's Larry King Show, where she repeated all the lies about the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the US; that he used chemical weapons on his own people; that al Qaeda terrorists are out to get us; and that she's fearful of chemical or biological weapons attacks, then denied she lobbied for war on Iraq.

Judy, Judy, Judy, you are a disgrace to the journalism profession.

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