Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Judy, Judy, Judy

This is an absolutely nail-on-the-head defense of the jailing of Judith Miller, from Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News.

"Indeed, as recently as a few days, we didn't want to see Judy Miller of the New York Times (or Time's Matt Cooper, whose case turned out quite differently) sent to jail. But frankly, our reasoning was pretty much along the same lines that the NRA uses to make hideous arguments to allow assault rifles or cop-killer bullets -- the "slippery slope" argument.

So what if the "source" that Miller (and Cooper) have been protecting may have committed a serious crime, naming an undercover CIA agent and possibly even exposing her to fatal consequences, as happened when American spies were "outed" in the 1970s. In the "slippery slope" argument, those facts are irrelevant. If Judy Miller goes to jail today, under this thinking, it makes it more likely for a good and honest journalist who's on the brink of exposing true corruption to be jailed tomorrow.

Today, we realized that the "slippery slope" argument is wrong, and so were we. We're not happy that Judy Miller is going to jail, but we think -- in this case -- that if she won't cooperate with the grand jury, then it's the right thing.

That's because Judy Miller's actions in recent years -- a pattern that includes this case -- have been the very antithesis of what we think journalism is and should be all about. Ultimately, the heart and soul of real journalism is not so much protecting "sources" at any cost. It is, rather, living up to the 19th Century maxim set forth by Peter Finley Dunne, that journalists should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

That is why the ability of reporters to keep the identity of their true sources confidential is protected by shield laws in 31 states and the District of Columbia (although not in federal courts). Without such protections, the government official would not be able to report the wrongdoing of a president (remember "Deep Throat," the ultimate confidential source?), nor would the corporate executive feel free to rat out a crooked CEO. The comfortable and corrupt could not be afflicted.

But the Times' Judy Miller has not been afflicting the comfortable. She has been protecting them, advancing their objectives, and helping them to mislead a now very afflicted American public. In fact, thinking again about Watergate and Deep Throat is a good way to understand why Judy Miller should not be protected today. Because in Watergate, a reporter acting like Miller would not be meeting the FBI's Mark Felt in an underground parking garage. She would be obsessively on the phone with H.R. Haldeman or John Dean, listening to malicious gossip about Carl Bernstein or their plans to make Judge Sirica look bad.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Miller -- working with her "sources" inside the Bush administration and their friends in the Iraqi exile community like the discredited Ahmed Chalabi -- wrote a number of stories that now seem meant to dupe the American people into to thinking Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were a threat.

Turns out, as you know, there weren't any. When the Times looked back on the fiasco, it found that Miller wrote or co-wrote nine of the "problematic stories" on the topic.


And rather than act humbled when the basis for many of her stories proved false, by this year she had adopted yet another pet cause of the Bush administration, the oil-for-food scandal at the United Nations.

Then, seemingly out of left field, comes her involvement in the case of Valerie Plame, the "outed" CIA operative. The facts of the case are still murky, and so we want to tread carefully as we write about it. What is clear is that Judy Miller wasn't on the side of the person seeking to expose government wrongdoing -- that would have been Plame's husband, ex-ambassador Joe Wilson, who revealed the White House's lies about uranium and Iraq.

Instead, the special prosecutor wants to know about conversations that Miller had with a person, or persons, who wanted to squash the whistleblowers. He wants to know if Miller, perhaps unwittingly, abetted what would have been a criminal act against the whistleblower and his family. In fact, there's a theory that Miller might even have been a person who told Bush administration officials that Plame was a CIA agent.

We don't know what it's all about, except we do know that this isn't really journalism. It's about whether she continued her longtime pattern of aiding those in power and spreading their propaganda. What ever it is, we don't think it's protected by the shield laws that are on the books."

I used the slippery slope argument just today when talking about this story and why I have not covered it in this space. It is hard to write a convincing opinion on a topic you feel ambiguous about. An example is the Rush Limbaugh case - absolutely hate the guy, and what happened to him, developing a drug problem that is then exposed brutally in the media, could not have happened to a nicer guy. Cosmic Karma.

You would have thought he could have learned a little compassion from the mess, but then the government steps in and turns him into a privacy martyr. Seizing his medical record, threatening him with prosecution for a drug offense, when the only person truly hurt by his actions were himself. So I find myself defending this man who persecutes anyone who falls outside his narrow ditto-based koolaid community. Blogging is hard work, no misunderestimation about it.

The Miller case has been equally troubling because she is such a scumbag shill for the administration, yet I believe in protecting the First amendment. But now my mind is as unencumbered by doubt as a koolaid kid; eat pilaf Judy, enjoy your Capitol accommodations, watch out for people with digital cameras.

Finally, a brief bit of speculation. Novak publicly says he had two senior administration sources, but he has not named them publicly, nor said if he has testified. Cooper gave his source up, with "unambiguous permission" but has said he will not do so publicly. Miller has gone to jail rather than reveal her source, even though the prosecutor has a waiver from the source allowing her to do so. Rove has admitted speaking to all these people around the time of the disclosure. And what about this idea of the journalist informing the WH. Conclusions, there are multiple sources from both inside the administration and probably Miller herself. Chalabi is mobbed-up like the Mossad, it would be within his ablility to gain such information and to give it to Miller (was he still friends with the Koolaid Kids Klub at the time?). Miller lets fly at the WH. Rove rubs his cloven hooves together. If Judy told him, it must be common knowledge and therefore open to discussion with Novak and Cooper, maybe not just him but Libby too, so it looks like they all thought it was safe, plausible deniability. The original charge is therefore nullified. Novak probably bought into the common knowledge lie (he'll believe anything). Cooper has been trying to do the right thing journalistically, but after Time cooperated, Rove let him off the hook, what a guy. Which leaves Miller and Chalabi, a foreign national and persona non grata in the US. Miller protects Chalabi because Rove is telling her she has to. She is the only one who can break their cover, because if she gives up Chalabi, he'll reveal Rove as the ultimate source. Maybe Chalabi has signed a waiver stating his innocence but has been unavailable for deposition and as long as Miller does as she's told, everybody is covered. The prosecutor knows what's up but can't prove anything without Miller or Chalabi. I may turn out to be wrong, wrong, wrong, so would that make me a Republican?