July 6, 2005
ironies of history are plentiful. Richard Nixon opened relations with Red
China, Deep Throat was lap dog for J. Edgar Hoover, Dan Rather was a
cheerleader for war, and Judith Miller was
a mouthpiece for the lies that led to war. Now, she is a martyr for
When you play with
the devil, sometimes you get burned.
revealed the desecration of the Koran by American interrogators, the
laid the blood of the innocent at the reporters’ door. If there was
any justification for that charge (there was in fact precious little),
what then can be said of the reporter whose tireless "journalism" gave
credibility to the now infamous weapons of mass destruction fraud? What
can be said of an esteemed professional who shamelessly espoused the
Saddam-Al Qaeda connection? Is there no blood on her hands?
As a reporter for
the New York Times,
Judith Miller was used by the White House to prosecute an illegal war
of aggression that may ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
Instead of learning her lessons and coming clean, she maintained her ties
and secured her position as the print media point for White House
She was leading the
charge to war with Iraq, Syria and North Korea before the curious case of
Valerie Plame imploded and brought her operation to a close.
Like Dan Rather
before her, Judy Miller has left us in a quandary. We believe in freedom
of the press but we also believe that Judy Miller has prostituted her
profession to the White House propaganda machine.
Thus far, we have
been given confusing accounts of what happened in this strange and
baffling story. This much we know: Robert Novak was employed in a cheap,
dirty trick, exposing an active undercover CIA agent in retaliation for
her husband’s objection to the administration’s fabricated case for war.
This despicable action placed her life and the lives of her associates in
danger, blew the cover off covert operations, and thereby threatened the
In a curious spin,
Judy Miller’s defenders (Robert Kuttner, Boston Globe) claim that
she was not contacted to publish the malicious outing but rather contacted
her White House sources to discover the source of the leak. We know that
Miller did not go public with the story, so what can we surmise?
First, that Miller
was named by someone -- presumably by her own contacts since no one else
should have known. In that case, Miller would owe her sources nothing. The
principle of protected sources cannot apply to protecting the very
individuals who would put you in jail.
Second, she must
have learned who the leak was though she chose not to reveal it. Had she
done so, she would have been serving the public good as well as fulfilling
her journalistic duty. Had she done so, she would no longer be a White
House darling but her current quandary would be heroic indeed.
If she did not
discover who the source was then there is literally nothing to protect.
She would simply be called upon to state for the record that she contacted
certain White House officials and learned nothing. Case closed.
Clearly, there is no
scenario we can surmise that would paint Judith Miller a hero.
We have heard
Miller’s colleagues in the media rally to her defense on the curious
grounds that this is somehow retaliation for the Times’ antiwar
stance and wondered: What planet have they been living on? The Times
was at the
head of the list in promoting the cause of war and its subsequent mea
culpa was something less than sincere.
We have heard them
proclaim in tones of utter disbelief: She is going to jail for a story she
never published! I admit I have joined that chorus but now I understand
that publishing that story was both her responsibility and her redemption.
That she chose not to publish is her own mea culpa.
Is she a journalist
or a propagandist?
Did the story fail
to serve her cause?
Did it threaten her
good standing with the White House?
Of course, none of
this can explain why Robert Novak is not in Judith Miller’s shoes. What
sort of deal did he cut? Unfortunately, given the state of American
journalism, we can have little confidence that anyone is even trying to
get to the core of this story. Moreover, there is the holdover case of the
Bolton memos (demanded by the Senate, withheld by the White House). Given
the Downing Street memos and the inexplicable refusal of the White House
to yield on this matter, these are potentially explosive documents yet
neither Miller nor her courageous colleagues seem interested.
There is also the
outstanding question of what Miller knows that Matt Cooper of Time
Magazine (released by the court when he agreed to cooperate with the
blessings of his source) does not. Apparently, their sources are not the
same. As Kuttner of the Globe rightly observed: Something stinks to
The curious case of
Judith Miller of the New York Times forces us to reconsider the
rights and responsibilities of the media. Unfortunately, it comes down to
this: If a journalist is employed in the commission of a federal crime
(like plotting an assassination), he or she is not protected by the first
In this case, it
seems amply clear that Robert Novak was the triggerman and no one has the
right to protect the man who ordered the hit.
Jack Random is
the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman
Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City
Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch,
the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others.
Visit his website: