Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Judy Miller Piece of Work

How did Judy work? It’s a gross exaggeration to claim that she took dictation, but I suspect that’s the impression many of her sources took home. Just look at the tone of that letter I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, sent Judy in jail to waive confidentiality so she could testify: “Come back to work—and life.” Does that really sound like Scooter is writing to a friend he’s left languishing in the slammer, or is he condescending to a secretary who’s had a breakdown? Burning Questions, Shadowland-Newsweek, Christopher Dickey, 10/18/05

The confusing and often misleading story of New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s jailing for refusal to reveal her source(es) seems to be heading for a culmination of sorts this week. Christopher Dickey of Newsweek picks through the layers of this puzzle to reveal the meat of the issue of who blew the whistle on Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, thereby possibly breaking the law. Dickey examines the heart of investigative journalism at its best and worst, and why big-business news publishing often goes for the latter.

It’s not enough that his version is interesting and brings new facts and ideas to light—Dickey also is intimately knowledgeable of his subjects. He knew Judith Miller when they both reported from Cairo twenty years ago. He knows confidants of Ahmad Chalabi well enough that even “no comment” is fascinating when it relates to this story:

Given the way Judy takes notes, I’m not surprised that she can’t remember who first gave her the name of “Flame.” I’ve even seen speculation that it came from one of her other not-so-reliable sources, Iraqi exile leader (and now vice president) Ahmad Chalabi, who peddled so many of the WMD rumors that wound up as facts in the Times. Ahmad keeps close tabs on his enemies, and I know first-hand that he counted many people at the C.I.A. on that list. When I e-mailed one of Chalabi’s aides to ask point blank if Chalabi was Judy’s source for Plame’s name, the aide responded: “Come on Chris … get back to serious work.”—Dickey

As always, Chris’s conclusion is worth reading. Despite Frank Rich’s take in the New York Times over the weekend, that sources and reporters, and Rove and Libby, are not the real story here—how Bush and his comaraderie lied to get the US to invade Iraq is—Chris Dickey’s description of the Miller mode gets to one root of what trouble this nation is in now.

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