News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

'NY Times' 'Frustrated' by Miller Story

By SETH SUTEL, AP Business Writer

Published: October 12, 2005 6:50 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) Now that New York Times reporter Judith Miller has testified again in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's name, many are wondering when the newspaper will publish the detailed account it has promised on their own reporter's role in the case.

That story may yet have to wait: Even after her second round of grand jury testimony Wednesday, it remains unclear whether Miller's cooperation with the probe has finished. A spokesman for Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel who is leading the investigation, declined to comment.

Miller was freed on Sept. 29 after nearly three months in jail for refusing to reveal her source for information about the operative. That information never made it into a story.

She has been advised by her lawyers not to discuss her grand jury testimony until it has been completely finished, the Times's executive editor Bill Keller told Times employees in a memo sent Tuesday.

Miller was still under a contempt-of-court order and was "not yet clear of legal jeopardy," Keller said. "As we've told readers, once her obligations to the grand jury are fulfilled, we intend to write the most thorough story we can of her entanglement with the White House leak investigation."

The delay, Keller said, "may be frustrating to our armchair critics, and it is frustrating to all of us," though he noted that other reporters who have testified also have not disclosed what they told the grand jury.

Fitzgerald is investigating whether a crime was committed when officials from the Bush administration became involved in leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, suggested that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

Miller agreed to testify about conversations she had with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, after Libby released her from a pledge of confidentiality. Prior to that, Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate.

The Times is in a difficult spot in this case, with its own reporter involved in a major national story even as the paper says it would be legally unwise to fully disclose her role.

Those following the case are eager to know what Miller knows about Plame affair, and also why she spent time in jail when Libby's lawyers contend he had previously released her from her pledge of confidentiality. Miller has said she wasn't convinced that Libby's previous waiver of the pledge wasn't coerced.

The Times' silence so far about what Miller knew in the Plame affair has led some pundits to criticize the paper, such as New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen. "Not only is the Times not operating properly, it's unable to say to readers: here's why we're not," Rosen wrote on his media commentary site called PressThink.

Several newspaper editors said they support the Times' handling of its delicate situation and expressed confidence that the paper would publish a thorough account of Miller's role when it was possible.

"It's always very difficult for a newspaper to report on itself, and it's compounded in this case because of the legal situation they find themselves in," said Charlotte Hall, editor of the Orlando Sentinel. "I have confidence that they will report fully and fairly on this."

Dennis Ryerson, editor of The Indianapolis Star, said that newspaper editors everywhere could do a better job of communicating with their readers the reasons why they make decisions about what to put in the paper.

"I don't think in the long run this should cause them great damage, but we're in a different era now" because of the Internet, Ryerson said. "Internal discussions are now being weighed like never before."

Tom Rosensteil, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a research institute affiliated with Columbia University, noted that if it were a politician or public figure who were in the Times's position, his aides would advise him to disclose what he knows as quickly as possible.

"It becomes increasingly awkward for any news organization when they find themselves in this spot, all the more so when you're the most important newspaper in the country," Rosensteil said.


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