Sunday, October 02, 2005

Judith Miller: 1st Amendment Martyr or Ass-Covering Sleaze?

I haven't posted on the whole Valerie Plame affair because I never thought there was much to it. She used cronyism to get him a plum, no-work job. He used the opportunity to turn it into an anti-Bush spectacle, with himself and his wife at the center. He's been lying his ass off ever since, trying to peddle his ineptness and dishonesty into "Bush lied; people died" political gain. The press has been buying it.

The whole Bob Novak angle -- that he was shilling for Karl Rove's retribution against Plame -- never held up when you looked at the whole story, which was only available if you read the Internet. Try this post, and then go to the main page and start reading back. He's covered this story in exhaustive detail. It's a sordid tale.

Which got even more sordid with New York Times reporter Judith Miller's release from prison this week. The press has covered her as she's one of their own and she's been "defending the First Amendment" or some such twaddle. They love those stories about their own because it makes them look noble. You know, the little, lonely reporter standing firm against the vast and crushing might of the United State's government and its evil minions. Except, of course, that the NYT is a pretty large corporation with lots of expensive lawyers and a large contingent of sympathisers and protesters.

Anyway, something always struck me as wrong about the whole "Miller in jail to protect sources" thing. And now Powerline blog is asking the same questions. Here are their theories:
It seems clear that Judith Miller and her lawyers aren't telling the truth. What isn't obvious, is why. Three possibilities: 1) Miller went to jail because she wanted to pose as a martyr, and she just needs an excuse for why she now wants to go home. That's plausible as far as it goes, but it doesn't explain why Miller stayed in jail for another week and a half after getting Libby's "clarification," while her lawyer negotiated with the prosecutor. 2) Miller went to jail because she didn't want to answer questions about her tipping off a terrorist-supporting group that the FBI was about to execute a search warrant, an episode that also could have come before Fitzpatrick's grand jury. She and her lawyer laid the blame on Libby so that the public wouldn't learn about the other episode, which is pretty much unknown. Plausible, and consistent with what we've been told about her lawyer's deal with the prosecutor--if, indeed, the terrorist tipoff was something that Fitzgerald could have pursued. I'm not sure whether that's correct or not. 3) The third alternative is the most sinister: Miller went to jail to protect not Libby, but another source or sources, and the prosecutor has agreed not to ask her about those other sources. If that's true, it suggests that someone in the administration--presumably, either Karl Rove or Scooter Libby--is being set up.
Go to this post and you'll read the explication of what I believe is Miller's true motive here, contributed by a reader:
I wrote you about this several months ago. In a published decision, U.S.D.J. Robert Sweet (S.D.N.Y.) denied Fitzpatrick's motion to compel Miller to testify before a grand jury relating to a leak to Miller about a warrant issued to the FBI for a search of a New York Muslim charity's offices. A source leaked this information to Miller, who, incredibly, promptly contacted the Muslim charity and revealed the warrant prior to the search. Fortunately, no FBI agents were injured when they searched the offices the next day, in what clearly could have developed into a very dangerous situation.

District Judge Sweet (I will resist reiterating my comments regarding him included in my other email to you) denied the prosecutor's motion to compel Miller's testimony about this incident, finding, if you can believe it, that Miller's conduct was permissible because it was merely in keeping with the Times' editorial policy of contacting subjects of upcoming articles for comment prior to publication. In opposing the motion Miller stated that she was contacting the charity to get its comments about an article she planned to write after the search had been conducted. In doing so, of course, she divulged the existence of the warrant and created a situation where the office could have been booby-trapped, or at a minimum crucial evidence destroyed or removed. As an attorney, I found the facts of this case and Judge Sweet's reasoning so disturbing that I continue to be shocked, months later, that this incident hasn't received more public comment. I don't expect the Times to report it, of course, but where is the alternative media? I noted that the prosecutor himself (as opposed to a deputy) filed a long affidavit in support of the application, which I understand is something of a rare occurrence in criminal practice. If you haven't read the decision you really should. I found it to be an eye-opener.

In any case, I always thought that Miller agreed to go to jail not to protect a dubious principle and a source who had already clearly released her from confidentiality in the Plame matter, but rather out of self-preservation, so that she could safely ride out the duration of the grand jury in jail without having to testify about the search warrant affair and her frankly criminal role in that. If my sense about this is correct, she caved once it was suggested that the grand jury could be extended for up to 18 more months. The absurdly public "release" from confidentiality recently restated by Scooter Libby gives her cover, but my hunch is that the real reason for her release from jail is the prosecutor's agreement to limit his questioning of her to the Libby contacts, which puts the search warrant matter off limits.
Not so heroic now, is she? The theory certainly fits a lot of the facts. It also makes sense.

Are there heroes in the newspaper industry? Sure, sometimes. But just like any other human endeavour there are a whole lot more people who are just muddling through, covering their asses when something goes wrong. Which is Miller? You decide for yourself, rather than let her colleagues (humans all) decide for you.

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