“If your sources are wrong, you are wrong.”
- Judy Miller
Amid all the speculation swirling around Special Councel Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s investigation, one revelation has received especially short shrift from the mainstream media: Judy Miller’s DoD security clearance issued by the Pentagon.
In Miller’s NY Times article where she purported to finally come clean about her involvement in the Plame case, she said, “During the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment ‘embedded’ with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons.” She went on to say, “I told Mr. Fitzgerald that Mr. Libby might have thought I still had security clearance, given my special embedded status in Iraq. At the same time, I told the grand jury I thought that at our July 8 meeting I might have expressed frustration to Mr. Libby that I was not permitted to discuss with editors some of the more sensitive information about Iraq.”
First, it’s important to distinguish the difference between signing a non-disclosure form, which retains a journalist’s ability to report the facts but without giving away sensitive national security information, like, say, announcing to the world where our troops are strategically located (good one, Geraldo). Being issued a national security clearance, however, would prevent a journalist, through a legally binding contract, from reporting any information the government doesn’t want the public to know.
Pravda, American style.
As retired CBS national security correspondent Bill Lynch said in an open letter: “This is as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists," adding, "if any official had ever offered me a security clearance, my instincts would have sent me running. I am gravely disappointed Ms. Miller did not do likewise.”
The NY Times public editor (a.k.a. ombudsman) Byron Calame was one of the only reporters in the mainstream media to cite this troubling alliance, which would not only preclude Miller from reporting certain information without facing criminal charges, but also from sharing such information with her editors who might attempt to verify her sources.
Miller, in an attempt to rebut Calame’s comments and seemingly flailing to save her name now that her bush league WMD reporting has boomeranged as she had never imagined, said in the Sunday Times, “I fail to see why I am responsible for my editors’ alleged failure to do some ‘digging’ into my confidential sources and the notebooks.” Yet she’s already admitted her security clearance caused her to withhold information from her editors.
It’s beginning to make sense why “Miss Run Amok,” Miller’s self-proclaimed title referring to her ability at the Times to work with little or no editorial oversight, may have had more reason to support Bush Administration claims of WMD running up to the war. Why her reporting on WMD - almost solely relying on Pentagon sources and Iraqi defectors and exiles, including Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted criminal and neocon stooge who had hoped land a position in the reconstructed Iraqi government – was, as Maureen Dowd and many others have noted, more stenography than investigative journalism.
Many questions surrounding this issue demand answers. Questions that speak to the heart of a democracy’s ability to sustain itself, and to maintain a separation between the government and the press. What's the exact nature of Judy Miller’s security clearance, does she still hold it, and what's the name of the person who issued it – someone in the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), perhaps? Were any of her superiors at the Times fully aware of this security clearance? And what should determine whether or not Miller is allowed to set foot in a newsroom again: did she knowingly allow this administration to feed her false information to help sell the war in Iraq, and did she omit pertinent facts solely because she was contractually bound by the government to do so?
Another comment by Bill Lynch sums up both Miller’s monumental hypocrisy as well as why we seem to be only scratching the surface of this whole sordid mess: “It is all the more puzzling that a reporter who as a matter of principle would sacrifice 85 days of her freedom to protect a source would so willingly agree to be officially muzzled and thereby deny potentially valuable information to the readers whose right to be informed she claims to value so highly.”
I wonder what Judy’s sources are telling her now.