Saturday, October 01, 2005

Pig Pile on Plame Penman

The bile that numerous pundits and bloggers spew at New York Times reporter Judith Miller remains a meme. It is reminiscent of the disdain and vitriol heaped on Hillary Clinton.

A few things we know about Miller:
  • She was a willing tool of the White House in spreading weapons-of-mass-destruction in Iraq lies
  • In researching for the Times, she heard from a White House source who told her about CIA agent Valerie Wilson (a.k.a. Valerie Plame)
  • She never published the story
  • She was one of several reporters ordered to testify about such matters before a grand jury
  • A couple of others, including a Time Magazine one, complained a little about the First Amendment and protecting sources, but sang
  • She claimed that she had a deal with the source and would not testify
  • The grand jury's judge jailed her for contempt
  • After 85 days, she got a direct call from the source, iterating that he freely gave her permission to testify
  • She did testify, after getting assurance from the prosecutor that he would limit his questions to the areas about that source and what he told her
Now the same newspaper, magazine, right-wing radio talkers and even some bloggers are on her butt. Previously they said she was just protecting herself and was never concerned about journalistic and First-Amendment issues. Now they agree with the lawyer for the source (VP Dick Chaney's chief aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby) that the blanket waiver he signed a year ago was all she would have needed to have testified and avoided jail.

Well, she was scum about WMD and making kissy-face with the White House. Yet, these have absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand.

It seems all too clear from her willingness to let herself be tossed into jail and from her consistent clarity about what it would take for her to testify that at least she felt:
  1. That the waiver from Scooter was too vague and did not free her of her obligation
  2. That the long-time protect-the-source rule that journalists abide by overruled personal considerations
  3. That the prosecutor needed to prove that he would not go on a fishing expedition that compromised other Miller sources
The Times coverage of what each side's lawyers says happened appeared today here. If you are determined to slander her, you can certainly pick the White House and Scooter's lawyers' side. Given that Scooter knew, as we all did, what Miller's position was on not having permission to testify, his waiting nearly three months to verify it with her makes his and his lawyers' comments on the matter highly suspect. Besides, I would as soon trust a roadkill burger than take the self-serving word of Dick Chaney's minion.

As a former reporter, I still despise her for her WMD tricks, but I certainly understand that the rules of the game of reporting come before expediency. Those who feel that everything should be thrown at Chaney, Rove, Bush, and now Scooter screamed for Miller to give it all up in that effort.

That would certainly be a very short-term gain for a long-term loss.

Like the proverbial slut with the heart of gold, this one seems to have some integrity under all that privileged veneer. As unprotected as bloggers are and as much as we claim that we expose ideas and news that would otherwise be invisible, we should be the last to call for a compromise in newsgathering.

Each of us could use some Lois Lane in our attitude.

Washington Post Postscript
: Today's Media Notes column in the WaPo carries a roundup (mostly negative) of journalists' and a politican or two's reactions to the whole mess. Professional jealousy is evident, but folks are also divided on whether this will encourage feds harrying writers or encourage a real shield law.

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