Judith Miller and Valerie ‘Flame’

I just finished reading the New York Times article on the Judith Miller affair, as well as Miller’s own account and reactions at several blogs (eg. here, here and here).

There are a few things that are on my mind.

In Miller’s account, at first, she clearly states that she went to jail to protect the confidentiality of Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby. She writes:

Having been summoned to testify before the grand jury, I went to jail instead, to protect my source – Mr. Libby – because he had not communicated to me his personal and voluntary permission to speak.

But just a few paragraphs down, she seems to contradict herself:

Equally central to my decision was Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor. He had declined to confine his questioning to the subject of Mr. Libby. This meant I would have been unable to protect other confidential sources who had provided information – unrelated to Mr. Wilson or his wife – for articles published in The Times. Last month, Mr. Fitzgerald agreed to limit his questioning.

In other words, if prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had originally agreed to limit his questioning to Libby, she may have testified about Libby. The preceding paragraph makes it sound as if she went to jail to protect sources other than Libby.

This issue becomes more intriguing when you consider that Miller says she cannot recall who leaked the name Valerie Plame to her, but that she doesn’t think it was Libby. The name “Valerie Flame” appears in the same notebook that she used when she interviewed Libby, but Miller says it was written in a different part of the notebook than her Libby interview notes.

This raises the possibility that Miller has been protecting sources other than Libby all along. But by convincing the prosecutor that Libby was the person Miller was really protecting, her lawyers were finally able to secure a guarantee that she would only be questioned about Libby. The end result is that she’s out of jail, Fitzgerald is off her back, but she has still protected the confidentiality her ultimate source/s.

Another part of Miller’s account that damages her credibility is this:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked about a notation I made on the first page of my notes about this July 8 meeting, “Former Hill staffer.”

My recollection, I told him, was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a “senior administration official.” When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a “former Hill staffer.” I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request? Mr. Fitzgerald asked. No, I don’t recall, I replied. But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson.

This is an incredibly dishonest way to identify an anonymous source. You are allowing the chief aide to the vice-president to criticize someone while making it appear as though the criticism did not come from anyone in the Bush Administration, but in fact, a more detached “former hill staffer.” If not lying, it is certainly an example of misleading your readers. Imagine identifying Dick Cheney anonymously as “a former congressman.” To be clear, Miller never did write a story on Wilson. But even agreeing to such terms with an anonymous source is troubling.

One thought on “Judith Miller and Valerie ‘Flame’”

  1. As everybody knows, Dick Morris is viewed as something of a pariah from people on the left and the right. One of his only conservative credentials is his hatred for the Clinton’s (who fired him). This is a blatant attempt to rip on his old enemies, create fake controversy, and to sell more books. William Randolph Hearst eat your heart out.

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