It's Miller time

The Judy Miller story keeps getting juicier.

Published October 10, 2005 7:44PM (EDT)

Salon editorial fellow Aaron Kinney looks at the latest news about Times reporter Judy Miller.

Judy Miller isn't the only one who has discovered previously undisclosed documents related to the Plame investigation. As Michael Isikoff writes in Newsweek, the attorney for Karl Rove found an e-mail that Rove sent to Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on July 11, 2003, the same day Rove talked to reporter Matthew Cooper of Time magazine. The attorney, Robert Luskin, claims the e-mail popped up after he employed a new set of search terms while trolling for electronic messages.

The e-mail, which Luskin said he discovered sometime after Rove's testimony in 2004, was crucial to the investigation of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald because it contradicted Rove's statements to the FBI and the Plame grand jury, in which he never mentioned his conversation with the reporter, Isikoff writes.

As for Miller, the notes she turned over to the grand jury after she testified less than two weeks ago pertain to a conversation she had with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, in June 2003. These notes are of interest in part because they predate former ambassador Joseph Wilson's New York Times Op-Ed of July 6, the event that started the affair by allegedly triggering the White House to retaliate and reveal the identity of Wilson's wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame. Did Miller know Plame's identity before Wilson went public in July? In Wilson's book, "The Politics of Truth," he asserted that his name was "openly circulating among the press" in the weeks before his article was published. (He had served as a background source in numerous articles that year, including one by Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.)

Meanwhile, the letter Miller received from Libby last month that freed her to testify before the grand jury Sept. 30 has become the subject of intense scrutiny on the Internet. Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher is among the scribes who are wondering whether the bizarre last paragraph was intended as some sort of code. In case you missed it, here's how it ran:

"You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life. Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers -- With admiration, Scooter Libby."

If Libby was not trying to slip Miller a message about how she ought to testify, as Mitchell and others have theorized, then what are we to make of this cryptic prose poem? One conclusion we can safely draw is that Miller and Libby are more than professional acquaintances. Based on that presumption, the relationship between Miller and the neoconservatives in the Defense Department and in Cheneys office who orchestrated the Iraq war appears more and more suspect.

This murky relationship, upon which the New York Times has to a very real degree staked its reputation, is certainly worthy of more attention from the Times itself, which has repeatedly been scooped in reporting on developments in Miller's case. So it was with bemusement that we read the article by the Times' public editor on Sunday, which was devoted, not to Miller or indeed anything news related, but to "what the Times news staff thinks" about its readers.

Public Editor Byron Calame, charged with being the representative of the readers vis-à-vis the Times, told readers in his column that "your curiosity was the characteristic that editors and reporters mentioned more than any other." Can Calame guess what readers are curious about right now?

By Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

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