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

Saturday, October 15, 2005

'NY Times' Publishes Devastating Judith Miller Article, Raising Serious Questions While Revealing Newsroom Controversy

By Greg Mtichell

Published: October 15, 2005 4:25 PM ET

NEW YORKShortly after 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, The New York Times delivered its long-promised article probing Judith Miler's involvement in the Plame case. It reveals many devastating new details about her experience -- and dissent within the newspaper about her role and the way the Times handled her case.

Among other things, the article discloses that in the same notebook that Miller belatedly turned over to the federal prosecutor last month, chronicling her July 8, 2003, interview with I. Lewis Libby, she wrote the name "Valerie Flame." She surely meant Valerie Plame but when she testified for a second time in the case this week, she could not recall who mentioned that name to her, the Times said. She said she "didn't think" she heard it from Libby, a longtime friend and source.

The Times' article is accompanied by Miller's own first-person account of her grand jury testimony. In it, among other things, she admits, that the federal prosecutor "asked if I could recall discussing the Wilson-Plame connection with other sources. I said I had, though I could not recall any by name or when those conversations occurred."

In this memoir, Miller claims, in regard to the "Valerie Flame" notation, that she testified "I simply could not recall where that came from, when I wrote it or why the name was misspelled."

But her notes from her earlier talk with Libby, on June 23, 2003--belatedly turned over to the prosecutor last week--also "leave open the possibility" that Libby told her that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, though perhaps not using the name "Plame."

Somewhat buried in the article is this note: "In two interviews, Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written accounts of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes." Thus, the article appears to be less than the "full accounting" with full Miller cooperation that the editors promised.

Just as surprising, the article reveals that the Times' publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, and executive editor, Bill Keller, did not review her notes. Keller said he learned about the "Valerie Flame" notation only this month. Sulzberger knew nothing about it until told by his reporters on Thursday.

The article says that Miller is taking some off but "hopes to return to the newsroom," and will write a book about it.

Meanwhile, newsroom leaders expressed frustration about the Times' coverage (or lack of) during the entire ordeal. Asked what she regretted about the paper's coverage, Jill Abramson, a managing editor, said: "The entire thing."

The story today says that Miller was a "divisive figure" in the newsroom and a "few colleagues refused to work with her." Doug Frantz, former chief investigations editor at the paper, said that Miller called herself "Miss Run Amok," meaning, she said, "I can do whatever I want."

During the July 8, 2003, talk with Libby, he told her that Plame worked on weapons intelligence and arms control, and Miller allegedly took this to mean that she was not covert, but she didn't really know one way or the other.

Revealing her working methods, perhaps too clearly, she writes that at this meeting, Libby wanted to modify their prior understanding that she would attribute information from him to an unnamed "senior administration official." Now, in talking about Wilson, he requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." This was obviously to deflect attention from the Cheney office's effort to hurt Wilson. But Miller admits, "I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill."

She talked to Libby again on the phone four days later, and the CIA agent's name shows up in her notes yet again, with her married name this time, "Valerie Wilson." Miller had been by then called other sources about Plame, but she would not talk about them with the Times.

Two days after her third chat with Libby, Robert Novak exposed Plame.

In her first-person account today, Miller writes that when asked by the prosecutor what she thought about the Robert Novak column which outed Plame as a CIA agent, "I told the grand jury I was annoyed at having been beaten on a story."

For the first time this clearly, Miller, in today's article, admits, "WMD--I got it totally wrong," but then goes on to say that "all" of the other journalists, and experts and analysts, also were wrong. "I did the best job I could," she said.

The article reveals, also for the first time, that Keller took her off Iraq and weapons issues after he became editor in July 2003. Nevertheless, he admits, that "she kept drifting on her own back into the national security realm," making one wonder who was in charge of her.

Another mystery the article may solve: Critics have long suggested that Miller was not even working on a story about the Joseph Wilson trip to Niger when she talked to Libby and others in 2003. But today's story reveals that she had been assigned to write a story about the failure to find WMDs in Iraq, but this was her beat so it's hard to understand why she would need an assignment. In any case, in talking to Libby on June 23, 2003, he wanted to talk about Wilson.

In a somewhat amusing sidelight, Miller at the end of her piece addresses the much discussed "aspens are already turning" letter from Libby last month that some thought was written in code or somehow had something to with Aspen, Colo. Well, the Aspen part is right, Miller confirms, recalling a conference in that city in 2003 and an expected encounter with Libby--in cowboy and sunglasses--shortly afterward.

[[more to come]]


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