Monday, October 17, 2005

Miller's Crossing
Rove-a-Palooza/Take a Letter from Libby

Before I took leave of my wi-fi from the San Antonio airport, I grabbed two snap summary judgements on the dual NYT articles on Judy Miller's tale of martyrdom, one from Salon's War Room blog and the other by Arianna Huffington at her HuffPo. And I won't bury the lede: neither commentary gives the NYT or Judy gold stars for their actions.

The most damning piece of this whole affair is that it seems we still don't know who slipped the Valerie Plame mickey into Judy Miller's cocktail (either due to really bad memory, incompetance, or worse--use of the "I can't recall" defense to protect someone else or perhaps herself). From the War Room:

The Times is right that these accounts brim with fascinating details, and few of them cast Miller, the paper, or, more importantly, Bush administration officials in a very good light. But what's most striking about the two reports is what's missing -- any information on who told Miller Valerie Plame's name. Miller's notes clearly show that someone disclosed to her that Joseph Wilson, the former diplomat who began questioning the Bush administration's WMD evidence in the summer of 2003, was married to a CIA employee named Valerie Plame. The names "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" appear in notebooks Miller used during interviews she conducted with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. But Miller says that she told Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the leak, that Libby was not her source for Plame's identity, and that she cannot recall who the source was.

And here's another key graf from the War Room:

Miller appears to have gone out of her way to help Libby bring this anti-Wilson view to the public. At one point, Libby asked her to attribute any information that he gave her on Wilson to a "former Hill staffer." But if Libby told her anything about the White House, she was to identify Libby as a "senior administration official." Miller says she recognized why Libby wanted this arrangement: "I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson." Amazingly, she agreed to the arrangement -- a move that clearly violates a cardinal rule of journalistic ethics (correctly identifying your sources and their motives), and calls into question the high-minded rhetoric Miller has been spouting for more than a year.

Huffington, who's been doggedly on the Judy Beat since the beginning of summer, tears into Judy for her lapses of memory and professionalism:

The Times articles are inconclusive about a lot of issues, but they are devastatingly conclusive about Miller as a journalist -- including, the confirmation that, within a few weeks of assuming the editorship of the Times, “in one of his first personnel moves, Mr. Keller told Ms. Miller that she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons issues," and including the Times’ long-delayed acknowledgement that 5 of the 6 articles in its WMD mea culpa "were written or co-written by Ms. Miller."

Her account of her meetings with Libby shows how off-target her journalistic radar was. Is it because of how off-target her loyalties were? Here is a quote: "My notes do not show that Mr. Libby identified Mr. Wilson's wife by name. Nor do they show that he described Valerie Wilson as a covert agent or "operative..." My notes show? Wasn’t she there?

One thing we do know about Judy Miller is that she's no dummy. Whether or not Libby said the words "Valerie Plame," and whether or not Libby knew or revealed that Plame was covert, it's inconceivable that Miller did not know what was going on: a high-level administration official was trying to smear a critic of the administration. That's news. That's something the readers of the New York Times --and the American people -- deserved to know, and yet she did nothing with the information.

And about that mystery source:

In what way was Libby the only "one meaningful source," if he didn't leak Plame's identity to Miller? Whoever gave Miller Plame's name was a pretty damned meaningful source. Although evidently not meaningful enough for her to remember who it was.

Huffington then goes on to the heart of the matter--Judy's martyrdom:

It is clear from the two Times pieces that Miller did not go to jail because she did not have a voluntary waiver from Scooter Libby -- who, incidentally, we should stop referring to as her source since, according to Miller, he was not the one who revealed to her Valerie Plame's name.
Contrary to this stance, it becomes obvious from both Times pieces that Miller was not standing on any lofty principle when she went to jail. As soon as criminal contempt charges or the empanelment of a new grand jury became real possibilities, she chose to do what she could have done before going to jail: reach out to Libby to get a verbal confirmation from him. Even Sulzberger, Judy's staunchest supporter, can no longer utter a ringing endorsement of her: "Maybe a deal was possible earlier… If so, shame on us. I tend to think not."


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