[Marxism] Support Wanes For Reporter In CIA Leak (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 24 03:29:15 MDT 2005


October 24, 2005 	 
Support Wanes For Reporter In CIA Leak 
By JOE HAGAN Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 
October 24, 2005; Page B1

In a series of remarkable public disclosures over the weekend, the
New York Times's once-staunch support for reporter Judith Miller
appeared to splinter following recent revelations about her
involvement in the CIA leak case.

While her own lawyer and the Times's assistant general counsel
defended her, the editor and the publisher of the paper questioned
their previously unqualified backing of the reporter. Two Times
editorial-page columnists criticized her in print, all but calling
explicitly for her departure. The actions suggested that Ms. Miller
is being encouraged to resign.

On Friday, Executive Editor Bill Keller touched off a wave of public
commentary by the newspaper when he said in a company memo that he
regretted not bringing greater scrutiny to Ms. Miller's interactions
with the source, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I.
Lewis "Scooter" Libby, before determining the paper's legal course in
the case.

"If I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with Libby, I'd
have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and
perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at
exploring compromises," he wrote.

In an interview Saturday, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the
Times, agreed with Mr. Keller. "Bill spoke for the newsroom but I
concur with his position," he wrote in an email. "In that regard,
some of Bill's 'culpas' were my 'culpas' too. At The Times, we're a
team."

Among his regrets, Mr. Keller said he wished the paper had been
quicker to correct Ms. Miller's prewar reporting on Iraq's nuclear
capabilities, which bolstered the Bush administration's case for an
invasion. He also said he wished he had sat Ms. Miller down for a
"thorough debriefing" about her role in an alleged White House
"whisper campaign" to discredit former diplomat Joseph Wilson, a
critic of the administration's Iraq policy.

Ms. Miller originally told editors she wasn't a recipient of a leak
meant to undermine Mr. Wilson, according to her editor at the time,
Philip Taubman. But it has since been learned from Ms. Miller's own
notes that Mr. Libby identified, although did not name, Mr. Wilson's
wife, the Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame Wilson,
weeks before her name was published in the Chicago Sun-Times by
columnist Robert Novak.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor investigating the leak,
has spent two years trying to learn if White House officials broke
the law by disclosing Ms. Plame's identity, or other classified
information, to reporters.

Ms. Miller went to jail for 85 days for refusing to testify, then
agreed to testify, saying Mr. Libby waived confidentiality. The
Times, both on its editorial page and in public comments by Mr.
Keller and Mr. Sulzberger, strongly supported her stand. She was
called back to testify a second time about an earlier, previously
undisclosed meeting with Mr. Libby that clearly took Times editors by
surprise.

"I should have wondered why I was learning this from the special
counsel, a year after the fact," wrote Mr. Keller in his memo.

In tandem with the Times's management, a prominent columnist for the
paper's editorial pages, Maureen Dowd, also criticized Ms. Miller and
the paper's support of her. "Sorely in need of a tight editorial
leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt the paper
and its trust with its readers," wrote Ms. Dowd in Saturday's Times.
If she were to return to the Times, Ms. Dowd wrote, "the institution
most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands." Mr. Sulzberger,
who oversees the editorial pages with Editor Gail Collins, said he
was alerted to the column in advance by Ms. Dowd.

On Sunday, Byron Calame, the Times's public editor or reader
representative, criticized management for not catching Ms. Miller's
ethical lapses -- including her admission that she offered Mr. Libby
a misleading anonymous attribution in the paper to obscure his
identity. Mr. Calame said her journalistic and legal problems "will
make it difficult for her to return to the paper as a reporter."

Asked if the comments by Mr. Keller presage Ms. Miller's dismissal
from the newspaper, Mr. Sulzberger said, "I've said what I'm going to
say." Mr. Keller didn't return calls seeking comment.

In a response to Mr. Keller's memo, Ms. Miller dismissed claims she
was "entangled" with Mr. Libby or had misled the paper's editors as
"seriously inaccurate," according to a report in the Times. To Mr.
Keller's characterization of her relationship with Mr. Libby as
"entangled," she wrote in an email to Mr. Calame, "I had no personal,
social, or other relationship with him except as a source." In an
email message last night she declined to comment further. A Times
spokeswoman said she continued to "take some time off."

Robert Bennett, Ms. Miller's personal lawyer, called the criticisms
of her "unfair and shameful," adding that Mr. Sulzberger had
encouraged her to resist the subpoena for months and was now ignoring
the principled stand she took when she spent 85 days in jail in lieu
of testifying. "Sulzberger was very supportive of Judy, to his
credit," he said. "What, all of a sudden, is happening now?"

He also said he didn't understand Mr. Keller's description of Ms.
Miller's relationship with Mr. Libby. "I don't know what on earth
he's talking about [by saying] entanglement," said Mr. Bennett.

One likely explanation: It wasn't revealed until her first testimony
before the grand jury that Ms. Miller had had previously undisclosed
meetings with Mr. Libby in which she discussed Mr. Wilson's wife.

A notebook Ms. Miller discovered shortly after her first grand jury
testimony showed the name "Valerie Flame" written in it, but Ms.
Miller said it didn't come from Mr. Libby and she couldn't recall who
gave her the name.

In a report last week in the Rutland (Vt.) Herald, Jill Abramson, the
managing editor of the Times, told college students in Vermont that
she could still recall significant sources from stories she wrote
long ago, casting doubt on Ms. Miller's claim. Later, she added, "If
she says she can't remember, I believe [her]."

It is unclear whether the prosecutor has taken Ms. Miller's claim at
face value, but Mr. Bennett said Ms. Miller wasn't a target in the
investigation.

Asked whether his client had misled the paper, Mr. Bennett said she
"was not lying at all" when she said she didn't recall the June 2003
meeting with Mr. Libby until the prosecutor brought it up.

But the lawyer conceded he could speak only to the period in which he
represented Ms. Miller, beginning in December 2004. "During that
period, Judy Miller never misled anybody," he said. "I'm not implying
she didn't in the past, but I wasn't there. But from what I saw, I
would find that difficult to believe."

The New York Times initially hired First Amendment lawyer Floyd
Abrams to represent Ms. Miller in the case. He didn't return calls.

Meanwhile, George Freeman, the Times's assistant general counsel,
also took issue with the criticism of Ms. Miller, calling much of it
"personality-driven" and irrelevant to the paper's original defense
of her. "I wouldn't have made any of the legal decisions differently
from the way they were done," he said. "The fact that she is
controversial and disliked by some colleagues or competitors should
have nothing to do with any of this."

Mr. Freeman, who said he hadn't read Mr. Keller's memo as of
yesterday, added that it wasn't standard practice to ask a reporter
to reveal everything he or she knows before defending the reporter
against a subpoena. Asked why Mr. Keller and Mr. Sulzberger appeared
to be distancing themselves from Ms. Miller, Mr. Freeman replied, "I
don't know. ... I'm not going to speak to what their motive was or
where it's coming from."

The critical lashing of Ms. Miller is a dramatic shift for Mr. Keller
and Mr. Sulzberger. A week ago, the paper was still reluctant to
respond to revelations contained in Ms. Miller's first-person account
of her testimony and in an independently reported piece that appeared
in the paper.

Last Monday, while visiting China, Mr. Keller was quick to make a
distinction between Ms. Miller's "journalistic performance" and the
original principle on which the paper stood in the case. "The
principle, sadly lost in the mess, is that when we promise to protect
a source the promise has value," he responded in an email interview.

Mr. Sulzberger, too, was reluctant to second-guess in an interview
the paper's management of the case. A week ago, when asked if he felt
he owed his newsroom any further explanation, Mr. Sulzberger said,
"No, I don't. And if there are still questions, that's something Bill
Keller can handle."

He also said he had kept the board of directors of the New York Times
Co. fully informed of how the case was developing, adding that they
were "very supportive all the way through."

October 21, 2005 7:20 p.m. EDT 	

Text of Keller E-Mail

October 21, 2005 7:20 p.m.

Here is the text of an e-mail sent to the staff at the New York Times
from Bill Keller, the paper's executive editor.

Title: Memo from NYT executive editor Bill Keller

A Message from Bill Keller:

Colleagues,

As you can imagine, I've done a lot of thinking -- and a lot of
listening -- on the subject of what I should have done differently in
handling our reporter's entanglement in the White House leak
investigation. Jill and John and I have talked a great deal among
ourselves and with many of you, and while this is a discussion that
will continue, we thought it would be worth taking a first cut at the
lessons we have learned.

Aside from a number of occasions when I wish I had chosen my words
more carefully, we've come up with a few points at which we wish we
had made different decisions. These are instances, when viewed with
the clarity of hindsight, where the mistakes carry lessons beyond the
peculiar circumstances of this case.

I wish we had dealt with the controversy over our coverage of WMD as
soon as I became executive editor. At the time, we thought we had
compelling reasons for kicking the issue down the road. The paper had
just been through a major trauma, the Jayson Blair episode, and
needed to regain its equilibrium. It felt somehow unsavory to begin a
tenure by attacking our predecessors. I was trying to get my arms
around a huge new job, appoint my team, get the paper fully back to
normal, and I feared the WMD issue could become a crippling
distraction.

So it was a year before we got around to really dealing with the
controversy. At that point, we published a long editors' note
acknowledging the prewar journalistic lapses, and -- to my mind, at
least as important -- we intensified aggressive reporting aimed at
exposing the way bad or manipulated intelligence had fed the drive to
war. (I'm thinking of our excellent investigation of those infamous
aluminum tubes, the report on how the Iraqi National Congress
recruited exiles to promote Saddam's WMD threat, our close look at
the military's war-planning intelligence, and the dissection, one
year later, of Colin Powell's U.N. case for the war, among other
examples. The fact is sometimes overlooked that a lot of the best
reporting on how this intel fiasco came about appeared in the NYT.)

By waiting a year to own up to our mistakes, we allowed the anger
inside and outside the paper to fester. Worse, we fear, we fostered
an impression that The Times put a higher premium on protecting its
reporters than on coming clean with its readers. If we had lanced the
WMD boil earlier, we might have damped any suspicion that THIS time,
the paper was putting the defense of a reporter above the duty to its
readers.

I wish that when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed as a
witness in the leak investigation, I had sat her down for a thorough
debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own. It is a
natural and proper instinct to defend reporters when the government
seeks to interfere in our work. And under other circumstances it
might have been fine to entrust the details -- the substance of the
confidential interviews, the notes -- to lawyers who would be
handling the case. But in this case I missed what should have been
significant alarm bells. Until Fitzgerald came after her, I didn't
know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of
the anti-Wilson whisper campaign. I should have wondered why I was
learning this from the special counsel, a year after the fact. (In
November of 2003 Phil Taubman tried to ascertain whether any of our
correspondents had been offered similar leaks. As we reported last
Sunday, Judy seems to have misled Phil Taubman about the extent of
her involvement.) This alone should have been enough to make me probe
deeper.

In the end, I'm pretty sure I would have concluded that we had to
fight this case in court. For one thing, we were facing an insidious
new menace in these blanket waivers, ostensibly voluntary, that
Administration officials had been compelled to sign. But if I had
known the details of Judy's entanglement with Libby, I'd have been
more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps
more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring
compromises.

Dick Stevenson has expressed the larger lesson here in an e-mail that
strikes me as just right: "I think there is, or should be, a contract
between the paper and its reporters. The contract holds that the
paper will go to the mat to back them up institutionally -- but only
to the degree that the reporter has lived up to his or her end of the
bargain, specifically to have conducted him or herself in a way
consistent with our legal, ethical and journalistic standards, to
have been open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes,
conflicts and the like, and generally to deserve having the
reputations of all of us put behind him or her. In that way,
everybody knows going into a battle exactly what the situation is,
what we're fighting for, the degree to which the facts might counsel
compromise or not, and the degree to which our collective credibility
should be put on the line."

I've heard similar sentiments from a number of reporters in the
aftermath of this case.

There is another important issue surfaced by this case: how we deal
with the inherent conflict of writing about ourselves. This paper
(and, indeed, this business) has had way too much experience of that
over the past few years. Almost everyone we've heard from on the
staff appreciates that once we had agreed as an institution to defend
Judy's source, it would have been wrong to expose her source in the
paper. Even if our reporters had learned that information through
their own enterprise, our publication of it would have been seen by
many readers as authoritative -- as outing Judy's source in a
backhanded way. Yet it is excruciating to withhold information of
value to our readers, especially when rival publications are
unconstrained. I don't yet see a clear-cut answer to this dilemma,
but we've received some thoughtful suggestions from the staff, and
it's one of the problems that we'll be wrestling with in the coming
weeks.

Best, Bill

Source: Associated Press






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