Slate's Kausfiles: A Miller Mutiny at the 'NY Times'

Alex Chadwick speaks to Slate political blogger Mickey Kaus about New York Times reporter Judith Miller, one of the key players in the investigation into who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media. She has testified before a grand jury investigating the leak, but has been less than forthcoming to her fellow journalists at The New York Times.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

A central figure in the investigation, New York Times reporter Judith Miller. She spent almost three months in jail before agreeing to testify for the grand jury. Ms. Miller caused what's described as a near mutiny at her paper, which ran two pieces about her role in the matter over the weekend. Slate blogger Mickey Kaus is one of many political junkies following the story closely. We spoke earlier about how Judith Miller has become such a prominent figure in this case.

MICKEY KAUS reporting:

Well, she drew attention to herself by holding out and going to jail rather than cut a deal with the special prosecutor, which other reporters did. She's getting a lot of blowback from her reporting that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which people who oppose the war think led us to have a justification for the war we shouldn't have had. So a lot of it is resentment by anti-war people that I think is a little unfair. If she were a left-winger who had reported on illicit CIA doings and gone to jail to protect the source, these people wouldn't be nearly as mad at her.

The other reasons she's getting heat are people think she could have cut this deal months ago. Why is she going to jail? Is it just sort of for show, to re-establish her credibility after this WMD reporting which was flawed? She wouldn't cooperate with other people at The New York Times, which I don't think is so bad, but people at The New York Times seem to feel she should have showed her notes to them.

CHADWICK: When they were investigating her role...

KAUS: Right.

CHADWICK: ...just in the last few days, she refused to show her notes to editors and reporters who were trying to write a story about what had happened.

KAUS: Right. And even before, she didn't tell her editors what Scooter Libby had told her. Even her bosses were sort of in the dark.

The final thing is nobody really believes what she claims to have testified to, which is that she doesn't remember who told her the name of this CIA agent. People think she's still in cahoots with Libby, that she's doing everything she can to get him off the hook by saying she--or getting somebody else off the hook. You know, this was a controversy within weeks of this conversation. How could she not have gone back at her notes, looked at the name `Valerie Flame,' which she miswrote in her notes, and realized who had told her that? People find it implausible that she would just not remember.

CHADWICK: What has happened to the reputation of The New York Times generally in the reporting of this story, in Judy Miller's incarceration and now freedom and testimony?

KAUS: Well, it's definitely suffered. I think it suffered a bit unfairly, but it's suffered because first her initial reporting on WMDs was inaccurate. They seem to be pulling this sort of fancy stunt of going to jail in order to drum up support for a federal shield law for reporters that people think was probably unjustified and sort of ingenuous, naive. And there's a lot of resentment at Miller herself. Nobody believes what she said.

CHADWICK: You're saying you, Mickey Kaus, who writes the sharpest criticism of The New York Times of anyone that I know--Mickey Kaus rises to defend The New York Times?

KAUS: Partially. I think they're getting unfair grief because people resent Judy Miller because they think she helped take the country into the Iraq War. And if she were a left-winger, she wouldn't be getting this grief.

CHADWICK: Opinion and analysis from Mickey Kaus. He writes the Kausfiles political blog for the online magazine Slate, and he's a guest on DAY TO DAY. Mickey, thank you again.

KAUS: Thanks, Alex.

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