Monday, October 24, 2005

Me, I'm curiouser and curiouser

Unlike the quagMier, which my esteemed co-blogger at Kesher Talk has pronouced "intensely boring", the Plame Game keeps getting more fascinating.

Not only does it provide a rare glance into the nature of the CIA's war against the Bush Administration's Iraq policy - complete with covert ops and a disinformation campaign - but now, for our delectation, we have the NYTimes implosion at full throttle.

Friday saw the publication of Bill Keller's email dissing Judith Miller, whom only days before he had feted and dined, after her release from jail.

Miller's response is here, where, among other things, she takes issue with Keller's curious insinuation that she was "entangled" with Libby.
As for your reference to my "entanglement" with Mr. Libby, I had no personal, social, or other relationship with him except as a source, one among many to whom I had pledged confidentiality as a reporter for The New York Times.

I know how important it is for the paper to protect its reputation, but I have my reputation to protect also.
Saturday saw Gail Collins' salvo against Miller in the shape of a Maureen Dowd shaped missile at her cattiest and bitchiest. BTW, isn't it fundamentally sexist to suggest that a female colleague ought to be leashed, even if it is in a literary context?

Sunday saw Byron Calame, the public editor, basically letting us know that he thinks Judith ought to be fired or should resign.
What does the future hold for Ms. Miller? She told me Thursday that she hopes to return to the paper after taking some time off. Mr. Sulzberger offered this measured response: "She and I have acknowledged that there are new limits on what she can do next." It seems to me that whatever the limits put on her, the problems facing her inside and outside the newsroom will make it difficult for her to return to the paper as a reporter.
Today, we get to see Judith's reply to Byron Calame.
You chose to believe Jill Abramson when she asserted that I had never asked her to pursue the tip I had gotten about Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger and his wife’s employment at the C.I.A. Now I ask you: Why would I – the supposedly pushiest, most competitive reporter on the planet -- not have pushed to pursue a tantalizing tip like this? Soon after my breakfast meeting with Libby in July, I did so. I remember asking the editor to let me explore whether what my source had said was true, or whether it was a potential smear of a whistleblower. I don’t recall naming the source of the tip. But I specifically remember saying that because Joe Wilson’s op-ed column had appeared in our paper, we had a particular obligation to pursue this. I never identified the editor to the grand jury or publicly, since it involved internal New York Times decision-making. But since you did, yes, the editor was Jill Abramson.

Obviously, Jill and I have different memories of what happened during that turbulent period at the paper. I did not take that personally, though she never chose to discuss with me our different recollections about my urging her to pursue the story. Without explanation, however, you said you believed her and raised questions about my “trust and credibility.” That is your right. But I gave my recollection to the grand jury under oath.
It's fascinating -- though not in the least unexpected -- that Jill Abramson did not consider that, having carried Wilson's column smearing Cheney, the Times had no special obligation to then examine and report on any conflicts that might be informing Wilson's public stance.

Meanwhile, with Times circulation figures and revenue way down, the sharks in the newsroom are out for blood.
Newsweek, meanwhile, carried a report on Sunday asserting that "many Times staffers are out for blood. At a contentious meeting in the paper's Washington bureau last week, some reporters and editors demanded Miller's dismissal. In private, some staffers argued the paper had to do more -- sacking Keller or even somehow punishing Sulzberger, whose family controls the Times. 'Judy took advantage of her relationship with the publisher,' said one Times staffer who asked not to be identified because he feared losing his job. 'The publisher should pay the price.'"
Editor and Publisher quotes David Gergen tepidly speculating that "Miller was 'used' by administration officials and Iraqi exiles."

Snort! No doubt to distinguish "her situation" from the entirely above board relationship that most journalists have with their leakers. Never any other agendas or using going on there. No, this kind of relationship is unique to Judy, as the great sage Gergen propounds it.

On this point, the NYSun weighs in with an editorial of it's own about the situation at the NYTimes.
For those of us who love newspapers, it's hard to take even a competitor's pleasure in the autophagy under way at the New York Times, whose own reporters and columnists are writing in the paper to attack one another and, most of all, Judith Miller. While she was in jail, the Times ran editorial after editorial defending her. Now, only days after she emerged, her colleagues have tried to transform her from First Amendment hero to "Miss Run Amok," not even fit to work at the paper. Suddenly the newspaper that was denouncing the special prosecutor for being overly aggressive against Ms. Miller is now hanging on every detail of his investigation in the hope he will use the same kind of aggression against aides to Vice President Cheney and President Bush...

There are some of us who remember the days when there was a New York Times that would not have sat for the CIA trying to overturn decisions of a democratically elected American government, whatever political party was involved...

Who has been the better journalist - Judith Miller or those attacking her in her own paper's pages? Ms. Miller was sounding the alarm about the Iraqi threat and working her sources and fighting not to get beat. Ms. Dowd was parroting unsubstantiated smears, and Mr. Wilson was falsely downplaying Iraq's effort to obtain weapons of mass destruction, without disclosing to Times readers his wife's institutional interests. And huge numbers of Times reporters have been complaining about her to competing news companies. To which we can only say that if Ms. Miller is to be run out of the Times in favor of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Wilson and those who believe, falsely, that the Iraq war was all just an elaborate con job by Mr. Chalabi and his neoconservative allies - well, then the Times is in even worse straits than we thought.
That's an excellent point about the NYTimes aiding and abetting a CIA attempt to derail the policy of the duly elected government. [Though perhaps the editors share the opinion of their editorialist, Mr. Paul Krugman, that Vice President Gore actually won the election?] Moreover, let me point out, it was the CIA that promulgated much of the recent disinformation campaign against Mr. Chalabi.

And to cap off all this journalistic hallaballoo and wallowing, Andy McCarthy, at National Review, points out the operatic level hypocrisy of what is going on.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you now know that Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was Miller's source that Plame worked at the CIA. And you know that Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, was a source who confirmed that fact for Cooper.

But how do you know?

You don't know it from the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald...

You also don't know it from Libby and Rove. As we are now informed, they spoke to reporters on condition that they not be publicly identified by name. Indeed, Libby is said to have gone so far as insisting that Miller refer to him as a "former Hill staffer" rather than a "senior administration official" to make extra sure his words would never come back to bite him you know where.

Note that at the time Libby insisted on this nom de leak — which is to say, insisted on that oh-so-solemn promise of confidentiality to which the Millers and Coopers and editorialists from coast-to-coast have effused about their unflinching dedication — there was no special prosecutor. Pat Fitzgerald was still in Chicago, minding his own business (or, at least, minding al Qaeda's business).

No, the promise Libby and Rove were seeking, and that Miller and Cooper purported to give, had nothing to do with any grand jury. It was that the sources' names would never be revealed to the public.

Yet, you are the public, and you do know their sources. Why?

You know them because the journalists decided to tell you. Miller and Cooper both made certain that the public knew every syllable uttered by the sources they've sanctimoniously told us, again and again, they made commitments to shield. And they did it in the worst possible way: in hyper-hyped, autobiographical, self-adulating accounts of their valiant struggle to withhold information from a grand jury despite that nagging inconvenience the rest of us know as the law...

But, as these reporters and their publications well know, they didn't have to do it...

If their principle was what they purported it to be, if they were as committed to it as they feigned, you wouldn't know anything. Their sources would remain confidential — perhaps forever. In the chain of charades begun by the charlatan Joseph Wilson, the phoniest of all may be that the special counsel, rather than mendacious media themselves, outed confidential sources...

It's worth remembering the now ancient history of this affair. Matters got kicked off over two years ago when Robert Novak wrote a column recounting what two Bush administration officials told him about Plame.

Who were Novak's confidential sources? We don't know.

It's fair to assume Novak has told the grand jury who they were. The law gave him no choice. But having promised to shield his sources from the public, he evidently did not regard a narrow legal compulsion to provide evidence in a secret proceeding as license to expose those sources for the entire universe to see and snicker at. And if the investigation ends without charges or with guilty pleas, you won't know anymore about Novak's sources tomorrow than you do today.

Yet, in the inverted world of media morality, it's Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper who are the polar stars of integrity. Go figure.

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