Judith Miller's Role in the White House CIA Leak
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
Indictments are expected this week in a case of possible leaks of classified information at the White House. The newspaper receiving those leaks, The New York Times, has been doing some soul-searching about its role in the case. A Times reporter, Judith Miller, went to jail rather than reveal the source who told her about CIA operative Valerie Plame, and The Times backed her up. But over the weekend, Times columnists and editors began to criticize in public the way the paper handled Miller and her sources. I spoke to NPR's David Folkenflik earlier about the growing disagreement.
David, The New York Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, wrote something extraordinary in an e-mail that has been made public. He said, `The Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers.' What was he talking about there?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK reporting:
The Times felt itself backed into a corner. It was going all-out in its defense of Judy Miller, who went ultimately to jail for 85 days to protect the names of her confidential source. In the meantime, they sort of had talked themselves into a position where essentially they were failing to live up to their compact with readers and the public, and that is to search as best they can to find and print the truth about relevant issues. Her source, as we now know, was Lewis Libby; he's the vice president's chief of staff. And The Times said, `You know, we can't simultaneously defend somebody and allow them to go to jail for protecting a confidential source and then publish that person's name in our pages.' His name was first revealed by other news outlets, and a lot of journalists seem to think that that's OK, that's sort of part of keeping your deal with an anonymous source.
The second step along that way, however, was that The Times essentially, if not killed outright, strongly discouraged and blocked reporting that could have gone into depth into, for example, what Vice President Cheney's aides did in the buildup to war to make the case for war and what they did subsequently to defend that decision after it occurred and after it proved that there were no weapons of mass destruction found. The notion inside The Times from a lot of the reporters, people both quoted inside the pages of The Times and people that I've spoken to, is that it was thought to get too close to Judy's sources. But you know, this is a pretty monumental issue. The notion that The Times would back off on covering seems extraordinary to people in the profession and very disheartening to people at The Times.
BRAND: So The Times is not only looking at how it covered the Valerie Plame affair and its defense of Judy Miller, but also she was the reporter--the reporter--in the buildup to the war about weapons of mass destruction, wrote a series of articles saying that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which later had to be discounted. So The Times is also soul-searching on that story.
FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. You know, in looking at these things and having reported both ends of it, I don't think there's any real distinction between the two areas. This is all about The Times and its coverage of weapons of mass destruction. The problem for The Times is that Judy Miller was very much one of the most forceful reporters reflecting the belief that there would be weapons of mass destruction found. And when there were not weapons of mass destruction found, the same people who swung into action to fight off attacks on their decision-making process in the White House--particularly centered in the vice president's office, also Karl Rove and others--were the same people who ultimately seemed to be at the center of this Valerie Plame leak. So the two stories aren't separate; they're very much part of the very same narrative. And it is an exceptionally, explicitly painful one for The Times.
BRAND: So what does this mean for Judy Miller? She has said that she may write a book about this whole affair and she's not reporting now for The Times. Is she coming back for The Times?
FOLKENFLIK: In the people I've talked to at The Times, the sense is she may well be well be on a 35-to-55-year book leave. She essentially is more or less calling her managing editor a liar. Miller has been, in the lights of her editors, been less than forthcoming, in fact, willfully misleading in parts. It's hard for me to imagine, particularly under this regime, that she would have a home back at The Times.
BRAND: NPR's David Folkenflik, thank you very much.
FOLKENFLIK: Hey, good to join you.