Miller Time

From Holden:

Williams E. Jackson, Jr., writing for Editor and Publisher, has had enough of Judith Miller.

[O]ver a period of weeks, Miller has published only one story in the Times on her current beat, the Iraqi oil-for-food program. But a very active life has continued for her on the lecture circuit in the role of principled reporter prepared to go to jail to protect confidential sources.

At a March 17 event at the University of California at Berkeley, billed as ”The Consequences of Confidential Sources: Jail?,” Miller was interviewed by a very protective friend, Lowell Bergman. A longtime producer for CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bergman currently works on investigative reporting projects for Miller’s paper.

Bonnie Powell of the university’s news center reported that Miller acidly proclaimed journalists “are not perfect. We’re not saints. But try running a functioning democracy without a free press.” And who better to make the case regarding non-sainthood, following her dangerously wrong 2002-2003 reporting on WMD in Iraq, which at times was based on outright collusion with confidential sources in and out of government who had wanted the United States to invade Iraq? Miller, in fact, praised Ahmad Chalabi for “never lying about his motives,” and noted his political comeback in Baghdad.

In her public appearances, she makes the argument that the fight is not about Judy Miller — it never is — but about “shutting down the flow of information. I’m not afraid of going to jail for my beliefs. It’s a proud American tradition. I am not a martyr, and I don’t want to go to jail, but I will.”

She repeated several times at Berkeley (I have watched the video) her excuse that “you go with what you’ve got,” when referring both to her WMD sources and the unidentified leakers she is now protecting in the Plame case. Miller carries on with her now-tired argument that if she was duped by her unnamed sources on WMD, well, so was the Bush Administration.


She attempted to tie the controversy over her WMD reporting to her current court struggles, and she partly blamed others when arguing that she had heard only after the fact that there had been people who had reservations about the WMD intelligence she was receiving. “I wish they had come forward at the time to express those reservations,” she said. ”To me, this case that I am now involved in emphasizes the importance of getting as many people as possible to come forward with a dissenting view, or allegations of wrongdoing.”

Despite her eloquent passion in defense of freedom of the press, her historical revisionism on the WMD story, when passing off such falsehoods, boggles the mind.

What is Miller’s public campaign — waged all across the country — all about, other than a transparent attempt to rehabilitate her damaged reputation as a journalist? As quoted by James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times on Sunday: “I am involved in a fight, a fight for my life right now, which is to stay out of jail and to continue to be able to function as a reporter. That has been an all-consuming fight.”


Rainey was present at Berkeley when Miller said that the failure to find chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons materials in Iraq had become a fixation. “Why hasn’t there been more reporting,” she asked, “about the intelligence failures that led the U.S. and other governments to miscalculate Iraq’s weapons capabilities? It remains a dangerous world out there.” Where has she been for the past two years, one wonders?

By the end of the Berkeley visit, wrote Rainey, “the strain of her double-profile showed” as she angrily denied his suggestion that she differed with her editors on the subject of WMD reporting failures. Host Bergman took Miller aside as she protested: “I did not need this. I really did not need this.”


[W]hy does The New York Times tie its reputation to the peculiar circumstances of Miller’s case? At Berkeley she asserted that her publisher has and “will back me 100%, ” all the way to the Supreme Court.

Contrary to the notion, on occasion endorsed by this writer, that Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Executive Editor Bill Keller had intended to promote a First Amendment showdown, I discovered a rather uniform view during a week of interviews with Washington journalists as to who drives whom. In their view, by refusing any kind of cooperation with prosecutor Fitzgerald and the grand jury at the district court level, Miller boldly forced the hand of her bosses into standing by her all the way through the appeals process.

The irony is that, rather than protecting her newspaper, she is imperiling it by rejecting out of hand the idea of some sort of negotiated compromise with the prosecutor. A veteran Times reporter critically reflected on her role in the Plame case: Around the water cooler of the Washington bureau, there is a strong feeling that “for the second time in two years, she will have brought disgrace to The Times.”

Therefore, the question is — as it was after the WMD scandal of 2002-03 — what price Judith Miller to The New York Times?