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October 01, 2005

Plaming The Victim: The Judy Miller Story

Coming soon to a theater near you: it's The Judy Miller Story.

Could anything be more dramatic? I can see it now...the beautiful and brave reporter, wan and pale of cheek, yet cheerfully struggling through endless days and nights in a dank, airless prison cell...

Shuffling down the hall in her legirons to the Snickers machine...the traumatic shower rape episode that leaves her with deep psychic scars. The flashbacks to that midnight encounter with Karl Rove... the horror!

From the very beginning, the half-vast editorial staff has maintained that this whole sordid business is the comedy gift that keeps on giving. No matter where one looks, the affair is rife with irony.

Watching the editorial staff of the NY Times in high dudgeon, as it twisted itself into a rhetorical pretzel trying to justify Ms. Miller's actions was one of the funnier things we've seen. The Times seemed unable to grasp the fact that their call for a special prosecutor in the Wilson matter, ironically a result of their hypocritical about-face on the formerly sacrosanct matter of Bob Novak's "right" to shield a confidential source, had quite predictably resulted in Miller's plight. In fact, we predicted this outcome well over a year ago. But now that Miller was under the gun, they suddenly re-discovered their former zeal for confidentiality of sources.

But it seems this affair has everyone switching sides. Arianna Huffington, like so many on the Left, can't forgive Miller's role in WMD reporting. She has been gunning for poor Judy Miller from the get-go:

NOW THAT Judy Miller has finished testifying, finished spinning for the cameras on the courthouse steps, finished hugging her dog and finished eating that special meal she wanted her husband to prepare, she needs to do what Time reporter Matt Cooper did and immediately publish a full and truthful account of her involvement in Plamegate.

Because what she — and the New York Times' publisher and editor — have said so far just doesn't add up.

The story being pitched to the public — that Miller was a heroic, principled martyr who sacrificed her freedom in the name of journalistic integrity, then fulfilled her "civic duty" after she "finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver" from her source — is laughable.

Indeed, it's already been greeted skeptically by 1) my increasingly frustrated sources at the Times; 2) a chorus of voices in the blogosphere, and 3) (and much more significantly) Joseph Tate, Scooter Libby's lawyer, who told the Washington Post that he informed Miller's attorney, Floyd Abrams, a year ago that Libby's waiver "was voluntary and that Miller was free to testify."

It defies credulity for Miller and the Times to keep insisting that Libby's earlier waiver was coerced when Libby says that it wasn't. I don't have much good to say about the vice president's chief of staff, but I don't doubt that he knows the difference between being coerced and acting on his own free will. How deep is the Times' contempt for its readers that it really thinks they'll buy the "Oh, Judy finally has the right waiver" line?

She has a point. Too much in Miller's story doesn't add up. Her insistence on protecting a known source who had already provided her a waiver because she wasn't satisfied that waiver was truly "voluntary" could have been satisfied with a simple phone call from her or her attorney to Libby or his attorney before she went to jail.

The Gospel According to Judy is truly laughable. According to the WaPo:

Miller had refused to testify about information she received from confidential sources. But she said she changed her mind after I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, assured her in a telephone call last week that a waiver he gave prosecutors authorizing them to question reporters about their conversations with him was not coerced.

Telephones apparently having been inoperative up until this point?

"It's good to be free," Miller said in a statement last night. "I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. . . . I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations relating to the Wilson-Plame matter."

All of which sounds very noble, except for the following:

But Joseph Tate, an attorney for Libby, said yesterday that he told Miller attorney Floyd Abrams a year ago that Libby's waiver was voluntary and that Miller was free to testify. He said last night that he was contacted by Bennett several weeks ago, and was surprised to learn that Miller had not accepted that representation as authorization to speak with prosecutors. "We told her lawyers it was not coerced," Tate said. "We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration."

Several weeks ago? I was writing about this more than several weeks ago. When she went to jail it was in all the papers that Miller didn't accept that her source's waiver was genuine. Why didn't they just call Libby?

And then there's this little detail...

In July, when Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered Miller to jail, he told her she was mistaken in her belief that she was defending a free press, stressing that the government source she "alleges she is protecting" had released her from her promise of confidentiality.

Had she truly been interested in avoiding incarceration, an effective advocate would have done everything in his power to prevent her from being imprisoned, or she would so have instructed him. And many have questioned why, when Miller never actually wrote about Plame, the federal prosecutor went after her. As I mentioned here, Plame had a long history of obstructing federal investigations:

This isn't the first time Plame prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has tangled with Judy Miller while investigating a leak out of the Bush White House.

A little more than a year ago, I reported on TPM how Fitzgerald had quite aggressively investigated another Bush White House leak in late 2001 and early 2002. Fitzgerald had been investigating three Islamic charities accused of supporting terrorism -- the Holy Land Foundation, the Global Relief Foundation, and the Benevolence International Foundation. But just before his investigators could swoop in with warrants, two of the charities in question got wind of what was coming and, apparently, were able to destroy a good deal of evidence.

What tipped them off were calls from two reporters at the New York Times who'd been leaked information about the investigation by folks at the White House.

One of those two reporters was Judy Miller.

There is a lot more here than meets the eye. When Ms. Miller's story finally comes out, it will be a doozy. I had to love Wonkette's take on Miller:

Others say Miller knew exactly what she was doing. "Fellow source-hoarder Matt Cooper's thrilling tale of a last-minute reprieve had seemed cinematic at the time," writes Beltway gossip Wonkette. "Good stuff, we thought, but what's a book about being a journalist martyr without sleeping on cement and not being able to watch CNN? When Miller stayed clammed up while Cooper sang, people wondered what she knew and now it's clear: She knows the dollar value of minor humiliation and anecdotes about prison laundry." Count the tabloid crestfallen. "We were all so First Amendment about you and shit."

In the end, that may prove to be what this was really about: promoting the Judy Miller Legend. The Intrepid Reporter, fighting the system for Truth, Justice, and a bit of American Pie. Whatever. I'm just not sure which category to look for it under, down at the local Blockbuster:

...tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited"

Somehow I just know this will be one of the truly unforgettable movie images to come out of Hollywood though. The heroine, standing in a field full of wildflowers, the wind blowing in her freshly-cut hair, her clenched fist raised in the air as she triumphantly says, "Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"

Fade to black.

Posted by Cassandra at October 1, 2005 10:13 AM

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"Fade to black" indeed. I think she finally realized that the world had completely forgotten about her, (Mother Sheehan has soooooo copped the front page!) Miller figured it was time to get herself back out front and center. Journalistic integrity? Do tell.

Posted by: spr rdr at October 1, 2005 12:30 PM

It's funny how almost everyone who writes about this story has trouble getting their mind around it. I think that may be because almost all of the players seem to have switched postions at one point or another - sometimes several times. It's like one of those interminably Byzantine Russian novels I used to love reading in high school - there's just something about it that seems to make hypocrites of the participants.

Or maybe it's just that none of them were true to their principles in the first place.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 1, 2005 01:24 PM

Or, just maybe, it never was about Rove after all..................

Gonna be fun to see this play out.Of course,if it isn't about Rove...it'll die a quiet death.


Posted by: Greg at October 1, 2005 08:25 PM

I have a feeling that this, like that cretinous Wilson thing, will never die. It's like a bad zombie movie from the 1970's that seems to be on every TV channel you turn on when you can't sleep - you can't escape it.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 2, 2005 10:03 AM

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