The NYT promises full disclosure on the Judith Miller saga

Executive editor Bill Keller tells staff that the Times will investigate its reporter's role in the Plame case.

Published October 12, 2005 1:04AM (EDT)

In a memo sent to staff at the New York Times today, Bill Keller, the paper's executive editor, once again promised to provide readers with a thorough account of reporter Judith Miller's role in the Valerie Plame leak case. Keller didn't say when such a report might appear, but he identified Miller's legal entanglements as the reason for the delay. (As we noted earlier, many Times watchers had expected the report to run on Sunday.) Miller spent Tuesday afternoon talking to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about some notes she found after she last testified, and she'll return to the grand jury on Wednesday, Keller wrote, to "supplement her earlier testimony." This development means that "for a couple more days she remains under a contempt-of-court order, and is not yet clear of legal jeopardy."

Once Miller is out from under this legal cloud, the Times will report all it can on her story, Keller said. "It's a complicated story involving a large cast, and it has required a meticulous reporting effort -- in part to chase down and debunk some of the myths kicked up by the rumor mill," he wrote. "Judy has talked to our reporters already about her legal battle, but the story is incomplete until we know as much as we can about the substance of her evidence, and she is under legal advice not to discuss that until her testimony is completed."

Keller ended his memo with an attack on "armchair critics" whom he suggests are unfairly attacking the Times for not telling all. After all, he pointed out, other journalists who've testified to the grand jury -- including the Washington Post's Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler, and syndicated columnist Robert Novak -- "have not disclosed the details of their grand jury testimony to this day."

It's a fair point, though we'd just add that it's quite natural to care a lot more about Miller's role in this story than in Pincus' and Kessler's. Miller, after all, preferred to go to jail for a couple of months to avoid testifying, and she relented only after receiving a strangely florid personal letter from Scooter Libby himself. By taking the stand that she did, Miller became a main part of this story; speaking for armchair critics, we can't wait for the Times to divulge all the details.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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