Miller’s Weak-end

We waited 85 days for Judy Miller to emerge from jail. Then we waited weeks for her own (and her paper’s) mea gulpa on exactly what went down. And, then, when it hit our doorstep yesterday morning, it was not at all what we expected (which, perhaps, is fitting, given the topsy-turvy path this case has taken since the beginning).

The New York Times ran two pieces this weekend on the Judith Miller case–one by Miller herself and one by reporters Don van Natta, Jr., Adam Liptak and Clifford J. Levy.

The result? Everyone seems to be just as confused now as we were on Friday. The NYTimes former chief Washington correspondent Adam Clymer said, “I don’t think the Times looks any better today than it did yesterday.”

Howard Kurtz–who with five bylines in two days and an hour long Reliable Sources clearly didn’t get any sleep this weekend– says that “The reaction is, well, overwhelmingly negative.”

Arianna Huffington says that the NYT pieces raise more questions than they answer and sums the situation up rather succintly:

    Not since Geraldo cracked open Al Capone’s vault has there been a bigger anticlimax or a bigger sham. The question everybody’s been asking is: who was the source who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to Judy Miller? And the answer? She cannot recall.

So we’ll just get to it. Both pieces are worth reading in their entirety, but we’ll give you a roundup of the relevant points/questions/quotes from both the NYTimes piece and the analyses of others after the jump…

  • Some of the most interesting stuff to come out of the NYT piece was the inside take on Miller’s less-than-glamorous reputation within the newsroom. She’s called a “divisive newsroom figure” and Miller even calls herself “Miss Run Amok” because “I can do whatever I want.”

    Former colleague Craig Pyes (now at the LATimes) had this to say about Miller when he worked with her back in 2000:

      “I’m not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller,” wrote Pyes, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times. He added: “I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her . . . She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies,” and “tried to stampede it into the paper.”</UL


    • Bill Keller’s statement.

    • Judy says that someone besides Scooter Libby fed her Valerie Plame’s name but she can’t remember who that person is. This is both highly unusual and highly unprofessional and seems to indicate that perhaps Judy is either a.) still protecting Libby (over the integrity of her own newspaper) or b.) still protecting someone else. So we now know even less than we did before…

      Kurtz points out a notable loophole that Miller may be crawling through for Libby. “Floyd Abrams told me yesterday that the other source may have just mentioned Plame, or Flame, in passing, and that Miller’s only substantive source on the subject was Scooter Libby.”

      More takes:

        “This is as believable as Woodward and Bernstein not recalling who Deep Throat was,” wrote columnist Arianna Huffington. Magazine writer Andrew Sullivan accused Miller of “pulling a Clinton.” And Editor & Publisher columnist Greg Mitchell said Miller “should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism.”

    • There’s lots of buzz about Judy’s secret clearances with the Department of Defense. Says Jay Rosen:

        The spookiest thing to me about her first person account was the suggestion that Judy Miller may have–today–security clearances that her bosses (and colleagues) do not have. This could be the reason her treatment is so singular. She said the prosecutor asked her if she still had special clearances when she met with Lewis Libby. She said she didn’t know. Does that sound good?

    • Judy doesn’t think anything’s her fault. Her faulty reporting on WMD in Iraq was the fault of her sources. Her trip to jail was Libby’s fault. And her lackluster reception upon leaving jail was her editors fault.

    • Judy’s on a leave of absence from the Times and many believe she may not be asked back (the fact that she refused to cooperate with the team of NYT reporters working on Sunday’s story isn’t helping the situation). Many are already calling for her dismissal. It is difficult to comprehend how the Times could continue to trust her reporting after all of this. Speaking of trust, one has to wonder why readers would trust the Times ongoing coverage of this matter, given their own concessions of how they’ve botched this story thus far.

    • The NYT’s editorial page (and their columnists, too) are still silent on the issue, although Tom Friedman’s sticking up for her.

    • Here’s the question we can’t quite figure out: Does any of the information brought to light in the past few days do anything to help us understand Bob Novak’s mysterious role in this entire thing?

    • My newspaper, the Examiner, says that there’s enough blame to go around for everyone in this matter.

    • The clear message emerging from both pieces is that, throughout this entire ordeal (and for whatever reason), Judy Miller had the NYTimes wrapped around her little finger…and the Times is worse off for it.

    • The pieces did not shed much light on exactly why Judy went to jail and why Libby’s original waiver wasn’t good enough. Kurtz gets a great quote from Tom Rosentiel:

        It is still not clear entirely what principle Miller felt she was protecting that also allowed her to testify. Is it the waivers? Or is it that she just got tired of jail and scared she might have to stay there

      If anything, the Times piece suggests that the 85 days in jail were largely due to a simple misunderstanding betwee her lawyers–Floyd Abrams and Bob Bennett–and Libby’s lawyer, James Tate.

    • Even Bill Kristol thinks Miller will be indicted. When Scott McClellan was asked whether President Bush still had confidence in Rove, he responded: “Karl continues to do his duties”

    • Jay Rosen’s got top-shelf analysis here.

    • Mickey Kaus raises an important question.

        Did Judy’s lawyer scam the special prosecutor? According to the NYT, Miller’s lawyer, Mr. [Robert] Bennett, who by now had carefully reviewed Ms. Miller’s extensive notes taken from two interviews with Mr. Libby, assured Mr. Fitzgerald that Ms. Miller had only one meaningful source. Mr. Fitzgerald agreed to limit his questions to Mr. Libby and the Wilson matter.

        But a key question is who told Miller the name “Valerie Plame,” which she miswrote as “Valerie Flame” in her notebook. Miller says she’s not sure it was Libby. Therefore it might have been someone else–i.e. she might well have had another very “meaningful” source, contrary to Bennett’s alleged representations to the prosecutor. Am I missing something, or does Fitzgerald have grounds for being extremely p—–d off?

      Kaus also brings up a good point:

        5. Isn’t this a major blow against testimonial immunity for reporters, in practice? Here is how the NYT itself reported the final argument made on behalf of Judith Miller before she was jailed:

        Robert S. Bennett, a lawyer for Ms. Miller, urged Judge Hogan to conclude that Ms. Miller would never talk, making confinement pointless.

        It’s now clear confinement wasn’t pointless. It worked for the prosecutor exactly as intended. After a couple of months of sleeping on “two thin mats on a concrete slab,” Miller decided, in her words, “I owed it to myself” to check and see if just maybe Libby really meant to release her from her promise of confidentiality. And sure enough– you know what?–it turns out he did! The message sent to every prosecutor in the country is “Don’t believe journalists who say they will never testify. A bit of hard time and they just might find a reason to change their minds. Judy Miller did.” This is the victory for the press the Times has achieved. More journalists will now go to jail, quite possibly, than if Miller had just cut a deal right away, before taking her stand on “principle.”

    • Good round-ups of opinion here and here.

    • And Miller awarded Mark Felt a prize this weekend and is soon to receive a First Amend Prize from the Society of Professional Journalists.

      “Miller is pulling a Clinton when she says she cannot recall who gave her the name ‘Valerie Flame.’ So she is either protecting Libby or someone else entirely or her own reporting. What is she hiding and why?. . . .