JUDY SINKS THE NY TIMES
Some not-so-random thoughts about the New York Times' "major story" on the Judith Miller-Valerie Plame leak affair.
Miller's superiors at the Times are pansies:
Interviews show that the paper's leadership, in taking what they considered to be a principled stand, ultimately left the major decisions in the case up to Ms. Miller, an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control. [Note: Hard to control? Nothing's easier. It's called firing for insubordination.]
Asked what she regretted about The Times's handling of the matter, Jill Abramson, a managing editor, said: "The entire thing."
In the year after Mr. Engelberg left the paper in 2002, though, Ms. Miller operated with a degree of autonomy rare at The Times.
Douglas Frantz, who succeeded Mr. Engelberg as investigative editor, recalled that Ms. Miller once called herself "Miss Run Amok."
"I said, 'What does that mean?' " said Mr. Frantz, who was recently appointed managing editor at The Los Angeles Times. "And she said, 'I can do whatever I want.' "
Miller's own account of her visits with Scooter Libby, and the repeated references to Wilson's wife, provide a clear picture of a high-level attempt to discredit Wilson's contradiction of the administration's assertion that Saddam was trying to build a nuke:
On June 23, 2003, Ms. Miller visited Mr. Libby at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington. Mr. Libby was the vice president's top aide and had played an important role in shaping the argument for going to war in Iraq. ...Her assignment was to write an article about the failure to find unconventional weapons in Iraq. She said Mr. Libby wanted to talk about a diplomat's fact-finding trip in 2002 to the African nation of Niger to determine whether Iraq sought uranium there. The diplomat was Mr. Wilson, and his wife worked for the C.I.A.
Mr. Wilson had already become known among Washington insiders as a fierce Bush critic. He would go public the next month, accusing the White House in an opinion article in The Times of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
But Mr. Libby was already defending Vice President Dick Cheney, saying his boss knew nothing about Mr. Wilson or his findings. Ms. Miller said her notes leave open the possibility that Mr. Libby told her Mr. Wilson's wife might work at the agency.
On July 8, two days after Mr. Wilson's article appeared in The Times, the reporter and her source met again, for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, near the White House.
The notebook Ms. Miller used that day includes the reference to "Valerie Flame." But she said the name did not appear in the same portion of her notebook as the interview notes from Mr. Libby.
During the breakfast, Mr. Libby provided a detail about Ms. Wilson, saying that she worked in a C.I.A. unit known as Winpac; the name stands for weapons intelligence, nonproliferation and arms control. Ms. Miller said she understood this to mean that Ms. Wilson was an analyst rather than an undercover operative.
Ms. Miller returned to the subject on July 12 in a phone call with Mr. Libby. Another variant on Valerie Wilson's name - "Victoria Wilson" - appears in the notes of that call. Ms. Miller had by then called other sources about Mr. Wilson's wife.
Miller lied -- it is not believable that she could have construed Libby's having brought up Wilson's wife at least twice to her as "casual conversation," particularly when she was interviewing him for a story, not sharing a social occasion.
In the fall of 2003, after The Washington Post reported that "two top White House officials disclosed Plame's identity to at least six Washington journalists," Philip Taubman, Ms. Abramson's successor as Washington bureau chief, asked Ms. Miller and other Times reporters whether they were among the six. Ms. Miller denied it.
"The answer was generally no," Mr. Taubman said. Ms. Miller said the subject of Mr. Wilson and his wife had come up in casual conversation with government officials, Mr. Taubman said, but Ms. Miller said "she had not been at the receiving end of a concerted effort, a deliberate organized effort to put out information."
The following excerpt may be evidence against Libby for obstruction of justice and certainly is evidence that he lied to the grand jury:
Mr. Abrams told Ms. Miller and the group that Mr. Tate said she was free to testify. Mr. Abrams said Mr. Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife.
That raised a potential conflict for Ms. Miller. Did the references in her notes to "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" suggest that she would have to contradict Mr. Libby's account of their conversations? Ms. Miller said in an interview that she concluded that Mr. Tate was sending her a message that Mr. Libby did not want her to testify.
According to Ms. Miller, this was what Mr. Abrams told her about his conversation with Mr. Tate: "He was pressing about what you would say. When I wouldn't give him an assurance that you would exonerate Libby, if you were to cooperate, he then immediately gave me this, 'Don't go there, or, we don't want you there.' "
Telling another witness about grand jury testimony is lawful as long as it is not an attempt to influence the other witness's testimony. [This was OBVIOUSLY an effort to do just that. Tate should be disbarred.]
"Judy believed Libby was afraid of her testimony," Mr. Keller said, noting that he did not know the basis for the fear. "She thought Libby had reason to be afraid of her testimony."
And that last, dear friends, is the story of how with full knowledge Judy Miller suckered her bosses and co-workers at the Times and may have brought down the venerable paper that defended her to the nth degree to its own detriment. Pinch Sulzberger is a fool if he doesn't fire her immediately and apologize profusely to the readers for enabling this disgrace of a journalist to assist the administration in leading us into an unnecessary war by her erroneous and credulous reporting on the threat of WMD in Iraq and for the paper's support of her since the Plame leak.