Fat Steve's Blatherings

Sunday, October 02, 2005

More on the Judy Miller Story


        The Judy Miller got-out-of-jail story is becoming quite confusing.

  • Nobody believes Judy Miller's story that I've been able to find.

  • As Jack Shafer points out on Slate, Libby had already waived confidentiality for Cooper, among others.

  • Further, the Libby/Miller correspondence is up, in the evil PDF format (but Powerline has non-PDF format copies), and Libby and his attorney mentioned that he'd waived confidentiality for all reporters.  They wanted Miller to testify, they say.

  • But Floyd Abrams, the Cooper/Miller attorney in question, wrote in reply to Tate, and said in effect that Tate and Libby were lying in their teeth.

  • Powerline also points out (in an earlier post) that even after getting Libby's letter, Miller over another week in jail.  During that time, she negotiated with Special Prosecutor Fitgerald to limit questioning to he conversation with Libby only.

        Something weird is going on.  The most reasonable conclusion I can see is that Miller has something else she doesn't want to be questioned about, and she went to jail to avoid that.  She was NOT protecting Libby.  Her pose as a principled martyr to reporting is a lie.  The problem is, I'm not sure this story has a reasonable explanation.

At Length:

        The Miller story is getting VERY interesting, and VERY strange.  No one believes Miller's story.  Everything I've read comes to the conclusion that Miller could have had the assurances from Libby, and the deal with Special Prosecutor Fitgerald, months before she went to prison.  They're too many to list.

        Howard Kurtz expresses polite incredulity while providing interesting information:
        Miller got a waiver to testify from Scooter Libby, Cheney's top staff guy.  The strange thing is, she could have had that same deal months ago-- the very same deal taken by Time's Matt Cooper-- and stayed out of jail.

        I asked her lawyer, Floyd Abrams, about this more than once.  I knew and reported that Miller and Libby had had breakfast in 2003, days before Novak outed Plame as a CIA operative.  Floyd wouldn't really discuss the details, but indicated that Miller wasn't convinced a Bush administration official could grant a voluntary waiver.

        That remark brings a real WTF? reaction.  Then there's Libby's letter to Miller, here, in the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned PDF format, or here, in a civilized presentation (hat tip to Tom Maguire).  Libby says:
        . . . my counsel had reassured yours well over a year ago that I had voluntarily waived the confidentiality of discussions.  . . . My counsel then called counsel for each of the reporters, including yours, and confirmed that my waiver was voluntary.  Your counsel reassured us that he understood this, that your stand was one of principle or otherwise unrelated to us, and that there was nothing more we could do.

        And in another letter, Libby's attorney, Joseph Tate, writes to Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald:
          . . . I had told Ms. Miller's counsel over a year ago [emphasis in original] that our waiver was voluntary, and he had assured me that there was nothing my client or I could do that would change her position.

        You express a concern in your letter that she may be in jail because of her misunderstanding of Mr. Libby's waiver and that her incorrect impression can not be cured because counsel may be concerned that any communication between counsel, or directly by the clients, might be viewed as obstructing the investigation.  I assure you these are not the facts.

        . . . On several occasions, when counsel for other reporters reported to you that they were concerned that the waiver was coerced, you or other members of your team reached out to me and asked me to allay their concern.  I, with Mr. Libby's approval, did just that.  In addition, there were others who asked for such assurances and I gave them.  Our position has always been that it is in Mr. Libby's best interest for the reporters to testify fully.

        With regard to Ms. Miller, we provided the same assurances long ago.  Her attorney and I had several conversations about this matter.  Over a year ago I assured him that Mr. Libby's waiver was voluntary and not coerced and she should accept it for what it was.  He assured me that he understood me comepletely. . . . Neither my client or I have imagined that her decision to go to jail could be affected by anything we could do. . . .

        (One final clarification to your letter may also be useful.  Contrary to the implication in your letter, I was the one who related that our waiver was voluntary and covered Mr. Cooper.  I offered that clarification to Mr. Cooper's attorney. . . . I then clarified to Mr. Cooper's attorney — who was also Ms. Miller's attorney — that the waiver specifically covered Mr. Cooper.  This is the practice I have followed with every reporter.)

        But Abrams, when he read Libby's and Tate's letters, wrote a reply saying that Libby and Tate were lying.  Abrams claims that Tate's comments made it clear that there was no such thing as a voluntary waiver for someone in Libby's position.

        So if that's the case, why was only Miller reluctant to testify, while Cooper, Glenn Kessler, and Tim Russert went ahead?  It's hard to buy Miller's story.

        Upon leaving jail, Miller mentioned that Fitzgerald agreed to limit his questioning to one issue, her conversation with Libby.  That implies that there's something else he might have asked that she doesn't want to talk about.  Tom Maguire is somewhat skeptical of this claim.  He believes, as does almost everyone else, that Miller could have had this deal a year ago.  Instead, by fighting the subpoena for a long time, and then sitting in jail till the grand jury is about to expire, Miller leaves Fitzgerald little time to serve another subpeona and delve into other subjects.  Maguire refers to this as "running out the clock."

        So, for most people, it all comes down to two possibilities: Miller had something she doesn't want to talk about in front of a grand jury, or Miller has been grandstanding because she thinks being thrown in jail will look good on her resume.  Cynics have suggested that Miller wanted to get a reputation as a First Amendment martyr, write a book, and generally refurbish her image, tarnished by her WMD reporting.  She went to jail just long enough to look good, then authorized her lawyers to call Libby's lawyer.  Besides, Fitzgerald was talking criminal contempt charges, and that's a possible five year sentence.

        One other issue, as Kurtz comments:
        Plenty of folks will also want to know why she never wrote a story about Valerie Plame.

        The question of whether she was ever assigned to write on the Plame case is very pertinent.  Miller and the New York Times keep talking about protecting journalistic sources, but was Libby a journalistic source?  If so, on what story?  The Times and Judy won't say.  They won't tell us why she was talking to Libby, they won't even tell us officially that the source was Libby.  Are the Times and Miller covering things up, or are they just trying to assert a privilige to collect any information, anytime, from anyone, and only reveal that which they choose to print?  Or What?

        A Post story has some information I find intriguing:
        According to a source familiar with Libby's account of his conversations with Miller in July 2003, the subject of Wilson's wife came up on two occasions.  In the first, on July 8, Miller met with Libby to interview him about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the source said.

        At that time, she asked him why Wilson had been chosen to investigate questions Cheney had posed about whether Iraq tried to buy uranium in the African nation of Niger.  Libby, the source familiar with his account said, told her that the White House was working with the CIA to find out more about Wilson's trip and how he was selected.

        Libby told Miller he heard that Wilson's wife had something to do with sending him but he did not know who she was or where she worked, the source said.

        Libby had a second conversation with Miller on July 12 or July 13, the source said, in which he said he had learned that Wilson's wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA.  Libby never knew Plame's name or that she was a covert operative, the source said.

        Libby did not talk to Novak about the case, the source said.

        Interesting.  Miller called Libby to talk about "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."  Other reporters were trying to get the Administration's reaction to Wilson's notorious op-ed in the New York Times.  But Miller had been writing about WMDs and Iraq for some time, and her coverage was later criticized for being badly mistaken.  Was trying to get something to protect herself with?

        Still, I can't quite rid myself of the suspicion that Abrams and Miller are dumber than sack full of hammers, and they really did think she was protecting Libby.



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