Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Judy Miller show 
These are the thoughts I jotted down while reading the Judy Miller/TreasonGate article in today's New York Times. I'm sure I'll think of more later, and I'll probably keep most of it to myself. The blogosphere, the mainstream media, and vast stretches of winguttia will be filled with this stuff for the next several weeks.

I find it really hard to buy into Miller's claim that she doesn't remember who gave her the name "Valerie Flame" - she's supposed to be a pro - she'd keep careful track of who her sources were, especially when it involved personal information about a 3rd party. And it clearly had to come from some source, because if she'd looked up Joe Wilson's wife herself she would have found the name 'Valerie Wilson,' or even (though less likely) 'Valerie Plame' - but certainly not 'Valerie Flame.'

If Bill Keller really told Miller she could no longer work on WMD and Iraq issues, why did he subsequently allow 5 more of her articles on the subject into the paper? He could have killed them, which would have forced her in the direction he wanted her to go, instead of publishing them and encouraging her to continue working on stories he claims he didn't want her working on.

According to the article, "Sulzberger and Keller knew few details..." yet they "did not review Miller's notes." Last year Times senior management felt obliged to publish a mea culpa of sorts about their Iraq coverage, particularly about the totally off-base WMD stories - stories that were reported by Ms Miller (though she wasn't mentioned by name). Why, after her poorly researched and totally wrong articles had embarassed the paper so badly, were Sulzberger and Keller so trusting that they'd once again put the paper's prestige, legal resources, and money on the line simply on Ms Miller's say so? She'd already burned the paper and, according to the article, she seemed to have little interest in the needs or desires of her employers. Are Sulzberger and Keller really that credulous and irresponsible?

Speaking of credulous - Miller's credulity strains mine. After her reporting on Iraqi WMD, based primarily on one less-than-honest source (Ahmed Chalabi), she can say with a straight face that Scooter Libby was "a good faith source who was usually straight with me?" Is she so ignorant of domestic politics that she'd believe that Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff would be "straight" with anyone in the press unless it served the administration's (or Cheney's) goals? And when she says that Libby wasn't forcing the Wilson/Plame info on her - that it was matter-of-fact background stuff - it raises the credulity quotient even higher. If you want information to get around, and you want it to seem genuine and unforced, would you paint it on a sign with ten-foot high letters, or shout it in the face of every reporter you come across? Or would you pass it off as 'oh, by the way' material?

The Times claims that "If Ms Miller testifies, it may be immeasurably harder in the future to persuade a frightened government employee to talk about malfeasance in high places." That is so much self-serving BS, it seems to me. In this case, the "malfeasance in high places" was Libby and Rove's attempt to use the press to attack an actual whistle-blower. When reporters get a story like the Plame one, it not only would make sense to get independent confirmation (and, I suppose, The Times would have attempted to do so if they'd actually published the story) but also ought, at least, to raise the reporters hackles. Why is the information being disseminated? What administration goals does it advance? Who gets helped, and who hurt, by the story - and what larger policy agenda is involved? These are the stories that ought to have been generated. That no one wrote them nor, apparently, even thought to write them, says scads about what's wrong with the press in this country today. In particular Ms Miller and The Times, after being burned so badly by the Bush Administration on the WMD stories, should have been much more suspicious of Administration motives.

Finally, although Ms Miller's suspicion meter didn't seem to jiggle at all for information provided by Chalabi or Libby, why did she suddenly get so suspicious of motives and honesty when it came to Libby's assurances that she was free to testify? She'd been told by Libby's lawyer, and then in writing from Libby, that she was free to reveal him as her source - yet she insisted that he come and tell her face to face. Would that she had been so careful about information that has cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq.

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