Judy Miller and Scooter Libby

A new report says the Times reporter talked with Cheney's chief of staff about Valerie Plame. What should Bush -- or the Times -- do about it?


T.g.
August 8, 2005 4:45PM (UTC)

Who is she protecting -- her source, herself or her political agenda?

As Editor & Publisher notes, a lot of people are asking that question about Judith Miller -- including a fair number of her colleagues at the New York Times. William E. Jackson Jr. writes in E&P that it is "possible" that Miller "had no ulterior or activist role" in the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, and that she is really just doing the honorable journalistic thing by going to jail to protect her sources. However, Jackson says, a "surprising number of Timesmen and Timeswomen" have suggested to him -- off the record -- that they hold what he calls a "counter view."

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That view picked up more support over the weekend, when the online edition of the American Prospect posted a new take on the Plame case from reporter Murray Waas. Waas says that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, has told federal investigators that he met with Miller on July 8, 2003, and that the two of them discussed the identity of Valerie Plame then. Waas' report, which he says is based on "legal sources" familiar with Libby's account, contradicts a July 16, 2005, story in the Washington Post in which Howard Kurtz and Carol D. Leonnig quoted sources who said that Libby and Miller discussed Joseph Wilson "a few days before" Robert Novak revealed Plame's identity in his column on July 14, 2003, but that "the subject of Wilson's wife did not come up."

If Waas' report is accurate, it puts Miller and Libby at or near the front of the line in leak-land. The New York Times ran Wilson's Op-Ed piece on July 6, 2003. Novak has said that he heard that Plame worked at the CIA from a "senior administration official" sometime after the Wilson Op-Ed appeared, and that he got confirmation from "another official" after that. We now know that the "other official" was Karl Rove and that Rove provided confirmation for Novak on July 8, 2003. Rove didn't tell Time's Matthew Cooper about Plame until July 11, 2003, and Novak's column didn't appear until July 14, 2003.

Waas says his news "raises questions" about whether George W. Bush is really doing everything he can to cooperate with Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. Libby has apparently issued a generalized waiver, freeing reporters to talk to the grand jury about their discussions with him. So if Libby was Miller's source, why won't she testify? Without conceding that Libby was the source, Miller's lawyers say that she has refused to testify because she has not received a waiver that she considers sufficiently "broad, clear and uncoerced." Cooper says Libby gave him a "specific waiver," but Waas cites three sources who say that Libby has never offered one to Miller.

Has Miller asked for one? We don't know. Waas suggests that Bush should order Libby to grant Miller a specific waiver. But as Mickey Kaus observes this morning, such an order from Bush would invariably create the kind of "coerced" waiver that Miller says is insufficient. And even if Miller were to receive a waiver she deemed good enough, it's not at all clear that she would testify even then. "Judith Miller is in jail and at continued jeopardy," her lawyer, Floyd Abrams, told Waas. "I have no comment about what she might do in circumstances that do not now exist."

"No comment" isn't anything new from the Miller camp. Last month, the Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, and its assistant general counsel, George Freeman, refused to tell the Times' own Doug Jehl "whether Ms. Miller was assigned to report about Mr. Wilson's trip, whether she tried to write a story about it, or whether she ever told editors or colleagues at the newspaper that she had obtained information about the role played by Ms. Wilson."

The Times' refusal to talk hasn't sat well with many of its readers -- or, it seems, with some of the editors at the paper: Arianna Huffington says that Jehl has been assigned to keep asking questions about Miller's role in the case.

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