July 7, 2005
Miller (gets off) lite
Should we care that Judy Miller, modern martyr of the first amendment, is in jail? Actually no, says Rosa Brooks, we shouldn’t:
It was Miller, more than any other reporter, who helped the White House sell its WMD-in-Iraq hokum to the American public. Relying on the repeatedly discredited Ahmad Chalabi and her carefully cultivated administration contacts, Miller wrote story after story on the supposedly imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
Only problem: Her scoops relied on information provided by the very folks who were also cooking the books. But because Miller hid behind confidential sources most of the time, there was little her readers could use to evaluate their credibility. You know: “a high-level official with access to classified data.” Ultimately, even the Times’ “public editor” conceded the paper’s coverage of Iraq had often consisted of “breathless stories built on unsubstantiated ‘revelations’ that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests.”
Will Bunch piles on:
Judy Miller’s actions in recent years – a pattern that includes this case – have been the very antithesis of what we think journalism is and should be all about. Ultimately, the heart and soul of real journalism is not so much protecting “sources” at any cost. It is, rather, living up to the 19th Century maxim set forth by Peter Finley Dunne, that journalists should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
That is why the ability of reporters to keep the identity of their true sources confidential is protected by shield laws in 31 states and the District of Columbia (although not in federal courts). Without such protections, the government official would not be able to report the wrongdoing of a president (remember “Deep Throat,” the ultimate confidential source?), nor would the corporate executive feel free to rat out a crooked CEO. The comfortable and corrupt could not be afflicted.
But the Times’ Judy Miller has not been afflicting the comfortable. She has been protecting them, advancing their objectives, and helping them to mislead a now very afflicted American public. […] What is clear [in the Plame case] is that Judy Miller wasn’t on the side of the person seeking to expose government wrongdoing – that would have been Plame’s husband, ex-ambassador Joe Wilson, who revealed the White House’s lies about uranium and Iraq.
Exactly who told what to whom in all this isn’t clear. The fact that Matt Cooper’s confidential source (to quote the New York Times) “specifically released him from promises of confidentiality just before today’s hearing,” means that Cooper’s source is not the same as Miller’s. Which could mean that Rove told Miller, who told Cooper and Novak (or maybe Cooper told Novak), then Novak told the grand jury about the other two and skipped home free. Then today Miller told Cooper he was off the hook, and chose Marthadom to protect Rove.
Or maybe not.
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