From Judy Miller, a farewell, a defense and a shifting story

The retiring Times reporter unloads in a letter to the editor and correspondence on her Web site.

Published November 10, 2005 2:00PM (EST)

When the New York Times published its account of the Judy Miller saga back in October, it gave Miller a big chunk of space in its news pages to tell her story herself.

Today, the day after the Times announced her retirement, Miller is back in the paper -- as the author of a letter to the editor. As part of the discussions leading to her retirement, Miller demanded that she be allowed to write an essay for the paper's Op-Ed page in which she would take issue with some of the allegations against her, including some raised by her colleagues and her boss, Bill Keller. As a news story in the Times today explains, the paper refused. "We don't use the op-ed page for back and forth between one part of the paper and another," said Gail Collins, editor of the Times' editorial page.

So Miller got busted back to "letter to the editor" status, and what she has to say is mostly what you'd expect: She went to jail to defend the right of journalists to protect a confidential source, she's proud of her tenure at the Times, she wishes she could do more reporting on prewar intelligence, she's leaving because she has become the news.

But there are a couple of things worth noting about Miller's farewell. First, Miller describes the agreement she sought (and apparently obtained) from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about the scope of her grand jury testimony differently in her "farewell letter" than she did in her first-person piece in the Times last month. Then, Miller said that she had remained in jail, at least in part, because Fitzgerald 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." Now, Miller says, she stayed in jail because Fitzgerald had declined to limit his questions "only to those germane to the Valerie Plame Wilson case." So was it "other confidential sources" Miller felt the need to protect, or was it other discussions with Libby that she didn't want to reveal? Her first version of the story suggested the former; her new version suggests the latter.

And then there's this: a link to Miller's Web site, where she promises that readers will find her response to criticism of her that appeared on the Times' Op-Ed page. At some point yesterday, Miller posted on her Web site letters she wrote last month to Times columnist Maureen Dowd and public editor Byron Calame. They're fine dirty-laundry reading if you're so inclined. Here's the short version: Calame was wrong, Dowd was wrong, Keller was wrong, Dowd's "close friend" and Times managing editor Jill Abramson was wrong, and the Associated Press was wrong. "The Times asked me to assume a low profile in this controversy," Miller says in one of her letters to Calame. "I told everyone that I had no intention of airing internal editorial policy disputes and disagreements at the paper, as a matter of principle and loyalty to those who stood by me during this ordeal."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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