Judith Miller scoops the Times on her own farewell letter

Judy Miller.jpgI haven’t checked Judith Miller‘s website since early in her prison term — but today it just got relevant. Today Judy has posted not only her own “Farewell Letter” (aka “hotly-contested op-ed piece”) but she’s also made public all her communiqu&#233s with Bill Keller, Barney Calame, and Maureen Dowd regarding what was printed about her in the paper.

Judy to MoDo: “I agree with you that reporters must be more than stenographers. The same is true of columnists. I hope you will correct the record soon.”

Judy to Barney: “I’m saddened that you, like so many others, have blurred the core issue of that stand and I am stunned that you refused to post my answers to issues we had discussed on your web site at the critical moment that Times readers were forming their opinions” (Ed. Ooh. That is kind of uncool. In the paper is one thing, responses on his website to his specifically-posed questions is another.)

Judy to you: “The right of reply and the obligation to correct inaccuracies are also the mark of a free and responsible press. I am gratified that Bill Keller, The Times executive editor, has finally clarified remarks made by him that were unsupported by fact and personally distressing. Some of his comments suggested insubordination on my part. I have always written the articles assigned to me, adhered to the paper’s sourcing and ethical guidelines, and cooperated with editorial decisions, even those with which I disagreed.”

Full farewell after the jump, but before the Paper of Record.

Judith Miller’s Farewell [JudithMiller.org]


Judith Miller’s Farewell

To the Editor:

On July 6 I chose to go to jail to defend my right as a journalist to protect a confidential source, the same right that enables lawyers to grant confidentiality to their clients, clergy to their parishioners, and physicians and psychotherapists to their patients. Though 49 states have extended this privilege to journalists as well, for without such protection a free press cannot exist, there is no comparable federal law. I chose to go to jail not only to honor my pledge of confidentiality, but also to dramatize the need for such a federal law.

After 85 days, more than twice as long as any other American journalist has ever spent in jail for this cause, I agreed to testify before the special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s grand jury about my conversations with my source, I. Lewis Libby Jr. I did so only after my two conditions were met: first, that Mr. Libby voluntarily relieve me in writing and by phone of my promise to protect our conversations; and second, that the special prosecutor limit his questions only to those germane to the Valerie Plame Wilson case. Contrary to inaccurate reports, these two agreements could not have been reached before I went to jail. Without them, I would still be in jail, perhaps, my lawyers warned, charged with obstruction of justice, a felony. Though some colleagues disagreed with my decision to testify, for me to have stayed in jail after achieving my conditions would have seemed self-aggrandizing martyrdom or worse, a deliberate effort to obstruct the prosecutor’s inquiry into serious crimes.

Partly because of such objections from some colleagues, I have decided, after 28 years and with mixed feelings, to leave The Times. I am honored to have been part of this extraordinary newspaper and proud of my accomplishments here — a Pulitzer, a DuPont, an Emmy and other awards — but sad to leave my professional home.

But mainly I have chosen to resign because over the last few months, I have become the news, something a New York Times reporter never wants to be.

Even before I went to jail, I had become a lightning rod for public fury over the intelligence failures that helped lead our country to war. Several articles I wrote or co-wrote were based on this faulty intelligence, and in May 2004, The Times concluded in an editors’ note that its coverage should have reflected greater editorial and reportorial skepticism.

At a commencement speech I delivered at Barnard College in 2003, a year before that note was published, I asked whether the administration’s prewar W.M.D. intelligence was merely wrong, or was it exaggerated or even falsified. I believed then, and still do, that the answer to bad information is more reporting. I regret that I was not permitted to pursue answers to the questions I raised at Barnard. Their lack of answers continues to erode confidence in both the press and the government.

The right of reply and the obligation to correct inaccuracies are also the mark of a free and responsible press. I am gratified that Bill Keller, The Times executive editor, has finally clarified remarks made by him that were unsupported by fact and personally distressing. Some of his comments suggested insubordination on my part. I have always written the articles assigned to me, adhered to the paper’s sourcing and ethical guidelines, and cooperated with editorial decisions, even those with which I disagreed.

I salute The Times’s editorial page for advocating a federal shield law before, during and after my jailing and for supporting as recently two weeks ago my willingness to go to jail to uphold a vital principle. Most of all, I want to thank those colleagues who stood by me after I was criticized on these pages. My response to such criticism can be read in full on my web site: JudithMiller.org.

I will continue speaking in support of a Federal shield law. In my future writing, I intend to call attention to the internal and external threats to our country’s freedoms — Al Qaeda and other forms of religious extremism, conventional and W.M.D. terrorism, and growing government secrecy in the name of national security — subjects that have long defined my work. I also leave knowing that The Times will continue the tradition of excellence that has made it indispensable to its readers, a standard for journalists, and a bulwark of democracy.