Tuesday, October 18

Judy Bats

Got the chance to read Judy Miller's personal account in the Times yesterday afternoon.

By now you've no doubt heard the major pieces of the story, especially the "I don't remember who told me" and Judy's almost-as-bizarre-as-the-original explanation of Scooter's appreciation of aspens. I didn't read it for news; I was looking for a couple of other things.

It's an odd, disjointed account, with frequent references to "what my notes indicate" or "as I testified". Judy's shaky memory and her strangely inadequate note taking make several appearances. She remarks on the fact that she was not allowed to take notes of her testimony (!). She insists, again, that Scooter was her only source, the one she went to jail to protect.

What I was reading for was this: was there any explanation for her returning to testify last week? The answer is no, just a brief mention of returning "after finding a notebook". That discovery, and the subsequent testimony, are central to the question of post-Big House Judy. Did she fail to tell Fitzgerald about the June 2003 meeting with Libby, the one that took place before Wilson's Op-Ed piece appeared, during her testimony on Friday? (This was the meeting which was mentioned in a Times piece this summer and later denied on the corrections page.) If anything, the sudden discovery of the notebook after her initial testimony is even less believable than the 'I don't remember the source of the Valerie Flame notation'. Fitzgerald must have had that June meeting in his pocket (from WH logs?), and Miller didn't cop to it the first time around. And Fitzgerald told Bennett his client was a perjurer and she could either cough up the notes and testify honestly or find out what life is like inside an actual prison.

So, frankly, I'm not buyin' the loss of memory story. Judy's second round of testimony occurred with serious legal threats hanging over her. Somebody got slicked here, and if you think it's Fitzgerald I've got a bridge you might be interested in.

Miller's tale sounds an awful lot like a George W. Bush news conference. She pushes an awful lot of buttons she goes out of her way to reach. "Mr. Fitzgerald told the grand jury that I was testifying as a witness and not as a subject or target of his inquiry" she says, immediately after mentioning her Wednesday appearance. But she could very well have been a target; the idea that reporters cannot be prosecuted for trafficking in classified information belongs with the idea that Fitzgerald's investigation is bound by the limitations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. It isn't, and they can be. If Fitzgerald announced that on her second day of testimony, it came in the form of a quid pro quo.

Another thing I found curious about the story, though not surprising--there's nothing surprising about journalistic ethics in this country anymore--was her straightforward acceptance of the role of stovepipe. She freely grants Scooter the changing of his cover from "senior administration official" to "former Hill staffer" because she figures the White House doesn't want to be seen as attacking Wilson. But why that should be so doesn't seem to enter the equation. In fact Why makes no appearance in her tale. Why, if there was "selective leaking" coming from the CIA, wouldn't the White House confront it head on, in public, on the record? Why should the President of the United States fear a single Op-Ed piece? Why doesn't Miller ever ask Why? Because she'd been part of the effort to cook the intelligence all along, and by June 2003 it was in ruins. There are no doubt other, maybe bigger reasons, as well. But that's enough.


Mick said...

I came to the same conclusion: As self-serving as her piece is, she doesn't have the talent to hide the fact that she was acting as a covert op for the admin, not a reporter. She not only never asked 'why?' (good catch), she never questioned anything Scooter said and by her own account just wrote it down dutifully like an agent writing down her new assignment.

There's nothing new about this, of course (I accused Miller of being a plant and an admin propaganda agent 2 years ago), but it's nice to see it finally making its way into the public consciousness even if it is a few years too late to do any good.

What we need to do now is concentrate on outing present admin mouthpieces like Jonathan Weissman of WaPo and Richard Stevenson & Liz Bumiller at the NYT. They are continuing in Judy's footsteps as apologists for the administration and are doing their damage NOW. We need to be ahead of the curve, and Dear Judith is old news.

Alex said...

the idea that reporters cannot be prosecuted for trafficking in classified information belongs with the idea that Fitzgerald's investigation is bound by the limitations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

That's precisely why I'm not quite looking forward to the upcoming indictments with the glee of the rest of The Left. Because I hate Judith Miller as someone who loves good journalism -- and Jack Shafer's "Unofficial Secrets Act" story makes it sound like Fitzgerald might set a precedent that'll make it awfully hard for, say, Sy Hersh to do his job. It's looking to me like there aren't any winners in this case, joy at seeing the WHIGs crash and burn aside.

doghouse riley said...

Admittedly, this isn't a pretty package tied up with bows, but I think your concern is at least premature: the Espionage Act has been bandied about, but it hasn't been used to indict anybody yet. Add to that the fact that Miller was the only reporter jailed for contempt, and as we now know, she had a release all the time. I don't think you're going to get a journalistic shield law strong enough to have indemnified her in this case; it'd have to be stronger than the attorney/client privilege.

And there's already precedent, going back to the Pentagon Papers, at least, yet it's been used sparingly, and only in cases that involve "espionage" in the common understanding of the term. (The Ellsberg case is moot, of course. I'd argue that the release of the information did not qualify, but his surreptitious removal and copying, maybe.)

So call me Pollyanna, I hope, at least, that if there's any precendent here it concerns back-channel bitch-slapping by an administration which has plenty of options to confront bad news out in the open. At the same time, I recognize that prosecutorial is a great threat to individual liberties, perhaps second only to electing Texan politicians.