Fitzgerald has long been criticized for going after Miller, who, after all, never wrote a story about the Plame affair. I always assumed, as did others I'm sure, that Miller filed a story, but that the Times declined to run it (after all, outing a CIA agent for no good reason is generally frowned upon by the media, especially when the outing is being done by administration officials in the furtherance of a political agenda). Like every one else I assumed Fitzgerald was after Miller's sources. The new element in this to me is that
Miller apparently had some contact with someone at the White House on or about July 6, 2003
, the day Joe Wilson's op-ed piece appeared in the New York Times revealing that he had investigated the yellow-cake rumors for the CIA and found them to be untrue. We also know from recent news stories that the Times is not in a position to do what Time, Inc. did relative to Cooper, namely turn over its (Miller's) reporter's notes. That is because the Times says they do not have Miller's notes. To me that suggests that Miller never filed a story after all. Surely if she did she would have had to supply background and documentation to her editors if the story were to be considered for publication. So if Miller never filed a story, just what role did she play in this affair? Why was she in contact with an unnamed "government official" regarding this story on or about July 6th?
The Downing Street Memos and Minutes prove what we really knew all along: that the White House was "fixing" the intelligence in order to justify going to war with Saddam. The major element of that fix was a pr campaign to convince the public that Saddam had a major WMD program. More than any one else, Judith Miller was the primary instrument of that pr campaign, landing story after story prominently in the pages of the New York Times (often on Page One) seeming to make the case for the Bush administration that Saddam was a genuine threat. We know, thanks to leaked e-mails revealed by Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post, that one of her primary sources was Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, darling of the Neocons who merited the coveted seat next to Laura Bush at the 2004 State of the Union address.
So if Miller did not file a story but was in touch with a "government official," presumably in the White House, when the Plame story was being leaked, just what was her role? Did she aid and abet the White House in getting this story into print? One thing we know for certain is that Karl Rove told MSNBC's Chris Matthews immediately after Robert Novak broke the Plame story that Valerie Plame was "fair game." While that conversation, revealed by Matthews and never denied by Rove, does not prove Rove was involved in the leak, it certainly proves he was in the loop.
All of this brings to mind another story that Judith Miller may have played a larger role in than her readers realize. You may recall the story of David Kelly, the British scientist and expert in WMD, who committed suicide in July 2003 while being investigated as the possible source for a BBC story that suggested (of all things) that the Blair government had doctored the intelligence about Saddam's WMD programs.
Judith Miller filed a story about Kelly on July 21, 2003:
Scientist Was the 'Bane of Proliferators'. The article painted a sympathetic portrait of Kelly and hinted that he believed Saddam did indeed maintain a WMD program despite the fact that no evidence of it had yet been found. Nothing in the article suggested that Miller had had contact with Kelly, nor that she had ever known him. Her story concluded with this passage:
Dr. Kelly's wife, Jan, said he had been under enormous pressure, but in e-mails sent hours before his death, he gave no hint of that, telling an associate, for instance, that he looked forward to returning to Iraq.
Thanks to news articles written by others we know more about Kelly's e-mails than Judith Miller revealed to readers of The New York Times... and more importantly, we know that Kelly wrote at least one e-mail that Miller failed to write about.
Jamie Macaskill, for example, filed a story in The London Sunday Mail on July 20, 2003 entitled: Dark Actors Playing Games:
SUICIDE scientist Dr David Kelly warned a friend that "dark actors" were working against him just hours before his death.
Dr Kelly revealed his fears shortly before killing himself after being dragged into the row over the Government's justification for war in Iraq.
In an email to American author Judy Miller, sent just before he left his home for the last time, he referred to "many dark actors playing games".
But, according to Miller, Dr Kelly gave no indication he was depressed or planning to take his own life.
He told her he would wait "until the end of the week" before deciding his next move following his traumatic appearance before a House of Commons select committee...
In fact, Judith Miller apparently knew David Kelly rather well. She had quoted him in several of her earlier articles going back to 1998, and according to the Globe article referenced above, Kelly had helped her write her book about Weapons of Mass Destruction published several years before.
One would have thought that Miller would have regarded her relationship with Kelly as well as her contact with him just before his death as "scoop" material. Instead she failed to let her readers even know that she had enjoyed a long and close association with him. Even more odd, she left out the provocative e-mail he had written her just prior to his death while writing about a more innocuous one sent to an "associate."
I find Miller's behavior in the Kelly story rather odd, to say the least. Unlike the Plame story, Miller did ultimately write about Kelly, but she camouflaged her own involvement and left much of what she knew out of the piece. I can't pretend to know what role Miller played in the Plame saga, but I am now wondering whether she is being looked at as a possible accessory, rather than as a journalist who is protecting her sources. If that is the case, her efforts to rally the journalistic community to her aid represent a cynical charade.
Comments are closed on this story.