Don't Forget About Jailed Reporter Judith Miller
ED GORDON, host:
As of today, New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, has spent 49 days in jail on civil contempt charges. Miller was imprisoned after refusing to disclose her confidential sources to a federal grand jury investigating the naming of an undercover CIA operative. Commentator Rochelle Riley concedes that as the days have ticked by, Miller's story has become too easy to forget.
I owe Judith Miller an apology. As my doctor, a talented and outspoken internist, checked my chest for wheezing, we noted that Miller had been in jail for five weeks. It seemed, my doctor said, that not enough people were paying attention. I know I hadn't been. That day as I sat fuming about possible pneumonia, it had been five weeks that The New York Times reporter had been punished for not writing about a covert CIA officer, for not disclosing whom she talked to about the story she didn't write. And in response I hadn't written one column, called one congressional representative or sent one letter to an obviously wrong judge.
But I also noted, it had been 107 weeks since Robert Novak, the conservative Chicago Sun-Times columnist, did write a column identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA officer. He may have gotten away with breaking the law. It had been longer than that since Karl Rove discussed Plame's identity with God knows how many people. Unlike conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who accepted consulting fees for praising the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act, there's no proof that Novak was paid to try to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson. Wilson was the former diplomat who wrote a New Times op-ed piece challenging the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction. Eight days after his public assertions, Novak outed Wilson's wife. This past Monday, August 22nd, was a milestone for reporter Judith Miller. On that day, her jail time surpassed that of William Farr. He was a Los Angeles Herald Examiner reporter jailed for 46 days in 1972 because he wouldn't reveal his sources during a criminal proceeding.
Miller's milestone, serving more time than any other reporter in recent times for protecting a source, should not pass quietly. She seems to be serving without regard, even as she is accused, strangely, by her husband of having the time of her life. She sits in jail while many of us who seek truth aren't paying attention. We ignore her, even if it means ignoring the precedent her incarceration sets.
I ignored her until my doctor mentioned her. She wondered why more Americans aren't outraged. I responded lamely that some heroes are more sympathetic or beloved than Judith Miller, that she still carries the baggage of earlier reportage that many feel helped build a false case for the Iraq War, that she is too connected to her new subjects that she may be too biased to offer truth.
`I don't care if people think she started the war in Iraq. How can they do this?,' my doctor asked. As usual, my doctor was right. Judith Miller isn't in jail for her war coverage. She's not in jail for revealing classified information. She's jail for Robert Novak and Karl Rove, and Robert Novak and Karl Rove aren't in jail because they're conservatives who support the president. Miller's eating garbage. Rove is still running the White House, and Novak is still walking off a guest spot on a TV show.
For her reminder of this travesty, I owe my doctor my thanks. I owe Judith Miller an apology. With every passing day her incarceration becomes more wrong.
GORDON: Rochelle Riley is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press.
This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.