Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Prime Time Miller

The New York Times on Sunday gave scorched-earth treatment to reporter Judith Miller's role in the federal probe into who at the White House outed a CIA agent. It is delicious reading, on many levels.

Prime Time Miller

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Judithmiller The New York Times on Sunday gave scorched-earth treatment to reporter Judith Miller's role in the federal probe into who at the White House outed a CIA agent.  It is delicious reading, on many levels.

The paper had faced increasing pressure from other journalistic institutions, as well as from many of its own staffers, to tell all it knew about why Miller spent 85 days in jail to protect the identify of a source who felt he had cleared her to talk more than a year before.

Times editor Bill Keller had promised an in-depth article once Miller was no longer in legal danger from the grand jury investigating the leaking of Valerie Plame's name. She was an operative, assigned to work on weapons of mass destruction, and her husband, former ambassador James Wilson, was an increasingly vocal critic of the Bush Administration's reasons for invading Iraq.

So what did the Times say on Sunday? You can read it here. On the top of the front page and over six inside columns the paper examines The Miller Case, as it calls it. Miller, herself, gets another three columns, to tell of her four-hour testimony. Find that here.

The piece goes a long way toward explaining why Miller stayed in jail. There remains serious disagreement over the discussion a year ago between the lawyers representing Miller and her source, I. Lewis Libby, who is chief of staff to Vice President Cheney.

Miller was jailed on contempt charges because she would not cooperate with the grand jury - she said she needed to protect her agreement of confidentiality. Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate of Philadelphia, says his client had already freed her to testify.

But the Times's lawyer also reported back to editors and Miller that Tate had passed along some information from Libby's testimony: he told the grand jury he had not identified Plame by name or that she was an undercover agent.

"That raised a potential conflict for Miller," the piece says. Her notes show she'd written down the names 'Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson," neither correct of course, but close. Did that mean she'd have to contradict Libby? the reporters ask. Miller would not share her notes with the three reporters working on the Times story, elaborate on her published account of her grand jury testimony, and "generally would not discuss her interactions with editors." (I'm not sure what that phrase generally means - it's one of two uses of the word in the piece that leaves questions. The Washington editor is quoted as saying that when he asked Miller if the White House had leaked Plame's name to her, she replied generally, no.)

But Miller does specifically address what Tate was saying when he conveyed her freedom to testify. "Miller said in an interview that she was concluding that Mr. Tate was sending her a message that Mr. Libby did not want her to testify." Miller says that when her lawyer, Floyd Abrams, was not able to assure Tate that she wouldn't implicate Libby, Tate sent a different message. Quoting Abrams, she told the Times reporters that Tate "then gave me this 'Don't go there, or, we don't want you there.' "

Tate denies this, calling it "outrageous." "I never once suggested that she not testify,' he wrote in  an email to the Times on Friday. "It was just the opposite. I told Mr. Abrams that the waiver was voluntary."

Keller, the Times's editor, added, "Judy believed Libby was afraid of her testimony."

Other news, this in a lighter vein:

From a cell at the Alexandria Detention Center with a partial view of a maple tree and a concrete barrier, Miller was whisked by her editor and publisher to the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown for a massage, a manicure, a martini and a steak dinner.

Her colleagues and former colleagues describe the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter as difficult. Her editor concedes it was not the perfect matter for taking a principled stand. Keller says he wishes it had been a whistle-blower case, not one of a government leaking information to punish dissent. And it he would not have minded its champion to have been a reporter "who came  with a little less public baggage."

Miller had written many stories before the war "strongly suggesting" Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, the piece concedes. Her sources came from the administration and Iraqi defectors. After the war, Keller published an editor's note about the paper's coverage that criticized six Times's articles. Miller's byline had been on five of them.

"W.M.D. - I got it totally wrong," she told the paper's reporters. "The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them - we were all wrong."

Well, not all.

Blogistan has buzzed for months about this case. The chatter has risen to fever pitch over the past several days.

Philadelphia's All Spin Zone wrote Saturday about a coincidence no one else seems to have caught. A high-profile death is involved.

Above Average Jane has been chipping away to reveal more of the not-so-well-chronicled Philadelphia days of I Lewis Libby. Her most recent post reprints testimony from an earlier time he was grilled over involvement in a leak.

Atrios slashes and burns the Times reporters' piece, then get's to Miller's own:

Most important things about the actual criminal case are in Judy's version. She's very good at playing the Sgt. Schultz defense. Who knew intrepid Super Reporters had holes in their brains.

Suburban Guerrilla, quoting Raw Story, gets ahead of the game, it seems. Or maybe not. That last paragraph is intriguing.

NYU J Prof, Jay Rosen has been feasting on the affair for a while, and today he scores some more points, among them noting a key brain hole:

And when the prosecutor in the case asked her to explain how "Valerie Flame" appeared in the same notebook she used in interviewing Mr. Libby, Ms. Miller said she "didn’t think" she heard it from him. "I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall," she wrote on Friday, recounting her testimony for an article that appears today….

Miller cannot recall where the name at the center of the case came from? Wowzer. Sure to be the center of controversy over the next week. Claiming memory loss about the most important fact in the story is weak. Very.

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times write about the NYTimes pieces.

Daniel Rubin Inquirer Columnist
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Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Karen Heller, Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

Daniel Rubin Inquirer Columnist
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