Escorting Judy to the Gallows
For the last 85 days the New York Times has been heaping praise on Judy Miller for going to jail rather than divulging the name of her source in the Valerie Plame case. The paper composed 15 editorials lauding her courage and comparing her to everyone from Rosa Parks to Joan of Arc.
So, why did Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger suddenly fire her after she was out of prison for less than a week?
Did heroism suddenly go out-of-style at the paper of record? Or were Miller’s shenanigans too hot to handle for the right-leaning Times?
A week earlier the Times had Saint Judy up on a pedestal, elevating her to near-mythic status and celebrating her eagerness to accept jail time rather than flinch on a matter of principle. They tried to turn her case into a national referendum on free speech and make it look like she was the victim of a justice system run amok. Miller was presented as the femme fatale enduring the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” rather than compromise her steadfast convictions.
Miller broke the law by obstructing an investigation into the outing of a CIA agent. She deserved to be penalized. This isn’t Watergate, where reporters’ Woodward and Bernstein withheld the names of sources that knew the details of the government break-in at Democratic headquarters. Miller committed a felony when she took Plame’s name from Libby and passed it on to others, putting other CIA agents in the field directly at risk. The First Amendment does not protect reporters actively participate in the commission of a crime.
Fortunately, the case has attracted widespread attention and the public seems to know that Miller is just protecting the creeps in the White House. The whole mess is nothing more than a personal vendetta carried out by the dirty tricks branch of the Bush administration. And, no one is buying the Times’ pompous rhetoric about journalistic integrity and the freedom of the press. Everyone knows that Miller was simply hiding the facts to shield her powerful friends.
Since Miller’s testimony, the focus of the investigation has shifted to Libby, Rove, and VP Dick Cheney. But what about Miller? Is she off the hook or can she be prosecuted for her involvement in a crime?
And, what about her role in building the case for war with fraudulent information from fly-by-night sources? Isn’t there a statute that covers that?
Miller’s earlier articles laid the foundation for going to war. Week after week she conjured up the lurid details of mobile weapons labs, aluminum tubes designed for nukes, and biological weapons plants hidden in the basement of Saddam’s castles, all completely bogus. Most of the fake claims that appeared on America’s front pages came from Miller’s pen.
Is it really possible that someone who contributed so greatly to the violent deaths of over 100,000 people will get off Scot-free?
Miller now says that she may have “got it wrong” about Saddam’s WMD, but that hardly seems likely. She wrote at least five blockbuster articles that convincingly challenged the findings of the UN Weapons inspectors and whipped the country into war hysteria. The Times never once disputed her uncorroborated allegations or her skewed perspective. Instead, they took a laissez faire approach; giving her headline space for every specious claim made by dubious defectors or Pentagon spokesmen. As she later admitted, “I can do whatever I want.”
But, WHY did she? No one risks their own career and their paper’s credibility for short-term gratification or fleeting notoriety. The breadth and detail of Miller’s lies implies that other factors were involved. Miller clearly had an agenda that far exceeded her own ambitions. What was it? Who does Judy Miller serve?
What exactly is her relationship to the White House? Did she really have a direct line of communication to Donald Rumsfeld? Was she the main channel for disseminating the lies that mobilized public support for administration policies? If so, we need to find out whether she received any compensation for her work or if she was acting as an agent for a foreign country. If Miller accepted as much as one thin dime for her efforts, then she is not protected under the 1st amendment and can be charged with a crime.
Let’s investigate the lead up to the war and see if Miller and Sulzberger colluded with the White House to create the deceptive news that duped the Congress into supporting the war. Let’s see if the “facts were fixed to fit the policy” in the newsroom as well as in the Oval Office. Perhaps, there’s a connection between Miller and her Washington benefactors that goes beyond mere ideological compatibility.
The First Amendment does not prohibit rigorous, independent investigations nor does it preclude assigning blame where it belongs. If Miller and Sulzberger were part of a larger conspiracy to initiate hostilities against a defenseless nation, we need to know. The Iraq war is the greatest crime of the new century. We need to find out who is responsible and hold them accountable.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.