Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Miller’s Tale

No, it’s not Chaucer. It’s the New York Times’ version of what happened with Judith Miller and her involvement in the Plame/Rove/Libby story. It’s a lengthy backstory with a lot of inside escapades about how and why Ms. Miller spent 85 days in jail protecting a source; a source who may end up spending his own time as a guest of the federal government.

In a notebook belonging to Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, amid notations about Iraq and nuclear weapons, appear two small words: “Valerie Flame.”

Ms. Miller should have written Valerie Plame. That name is at the core of a federal grand jury investigation that has reached deep into the White House. At issue is whether Bush administration officials leaked the identity of Ms. Plame, an undercover C.I.A. operative, to reporters as part of an effort to blunt criticism of the president’s justification for the war in Iraq.

Ms. Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify and reveal her confidential source, then relented. On Sept. 30, she told the grand jury that her source was I. Lewis Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff. But she said he did not reveal Ms. Plame’s name.

Read the whole article here. It is excrutiatingly detailed, right down to the first thing Ms. Miller did when she got sprung (she was taken by her editor and her lawyer to the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown for “a massage, a manicure, a martini and a steak dinner.”) There’s also the story of her return to work at the paper where her reception by her colleagues was less than enthusiastic.

“You could see it in people’s faces,” Ms. Miller said later. “I’m a reporter. People were confused and perplexed, and I realized then that The Times and I hadn’t done a very good job of making people understand what has been accomplished.”

In the days since, The Times has been consumed by discussions about how the newspaper handled the case, how Times journalists covered the news of their own paper – and about Ms. Miller herself.

“Everyone admires our paper’s willingness to stand behind us and our work, but most people I talk to have been troubled and puzzled by Judy’s seeming ability to operate outside of conventional reportorial channels and managerial controls,” said Todd S. Purdum, a Washington reporter for The Times. “Partly because of that, many people have worried about whether this was the proper fight to fight.”

As for her own story, Ms. Miller gives a detailed report on what she told the grand jury investigating the leak and why she felt it was necessary for her to protect Scooter Libby as her source. Some of the lengths she went to do so were, in the eyes of some, pretty questionable.

It’s not as juicy as Bill and Monica. But the crimes and misdemeanors that really threaten our country never are.