Judith Miller and the Question of Special Clearance

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NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr considers the claim by New York Times correspondent Judith Miller that she received special security clearance from the military to cover military operations in Iraq.

DANIEL SCHORR (NPR Senior News Analyst):

Journalists talking about journalism is something that probably should be done only in moderation, but this one I cannot resist.


NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Of all the bizarre aspects of what's called the CIA leak investigation, perhaps the most bizarre is the security clearance claimed by New York Times reporter Judith Miller. It came about, she says, when she was embedded with a special military task force hunting for unconventional weapons in Iraq after the invasion. The Pentagon ...(unintelligible), as she's testifying, gave her the clearance to see secret information as part of her assignment, and she thinks that clearance remained in effect after her return from Iraq.

And so when Ms. Miller met with Vice President Dick Cheney's aide, Lewis Libby, on July 8th, 2003, she testified that she may have expressed her frustration at not being permitted to discuss with her editors some of the most sensitive information about Iraq.

Think of that for a minute. If what Ms. Miller says about the security clearance is true--and you're allowed to harbor a little skepticism--then she signed an agreement to protect secrets that she might see. That made her, in effect, no longer a reporter, but an agent of the government. As a reporter, her duty was to uncover secrets. But as a licensed bearer of government secrets, her commitment was to help to hide these secrets. One can understand why, despite her privileged access, she never wrote a story that The Times would publish about the leaking of Valerie Plame's CIA status.

The Pentagon has not commented about Ms. Miller's security status, past or present. Her lawyer, Floyd Abrams, says her status `didn't rise to the level of official clearance, but it was still unusual.' Unusual, indeed. A reporter carrying water for government officials in return for the thrill of seeing a paper marked `secret' or hearing a few whispered words? That gives a whole new meaning to the word `embedded.'

This is Daniel Schorr.

HANSEN: It's 18 minutes past the hour.

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