Questions Swirl Around Latest Twist in Judith Miller Saga

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By: Greg Mitchell

So who blinked first in the Pat and Judy Show — the federal prosecutor or the jailed journalist? This is among a host of questions raised by Judith Miller’s sudden prison release after cutting a deal with prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Her statements to the press following her testimony this afternoon did not answer any of them, as expected.

Did Miller cave, close to the end of the Plame grand jury’s current term, because she feared that Fitzgerald would extend the term for many months? Or did the prosecutor cave (agreeing to limit Miller’s testimony) because he was already being criticized for taking so long to produce indictments and needed to at least nail one bad guy?

Other bits of intrigue have left observers groping for answers. Jon Friedman at MarketWatch may be the only one who has it all figured out, musing today, “Maybe Judith Miller is a really big New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox fan and she just had to watch the dramatic three-game series between the two teams this weekend.”

Even so, questions remain, among them:

— First, The Washington Post got scooped on naming Deep Throat. Now The New York Times is just about last to report on its own star reporter (who it has championed in numerous editorials) getting sprung from jail. Even E&P, following The Philadelphia Inquirer’s scoop, beat the Times on it Thursday night. What’s up with that?

— Why should anyone expect that Miller did anything but protect “Scooter” Libby in her testimony? A letter he sent to Miller on Sept. 15, urging her to accept his waiver–reproduced in a PDF on the Times site on Saturday–was decidedly personal and chummy. It opened with, “Your reporting, and you, are missed,” and closed with a hymn about autumn, Miller’s present inability to cover “biological threats,” and an ode to the aspens turning in the West “where you vacation…. Come back to work–and life,” he urged.

— Why wasn’t Libby’s personal waiver allowing her to testify (granted a year ago, he says) not good enough for Miller when it was good enough for numerous other embattled journos in this case? Why the sudden change of heart on her part?

— Buried in all the accounts of Miller’s agreeing to testify is the little matter of also turning over her written “edited” notes (apparently jotted down after the fact) on her chats with Libby. What does “edited” mean? While not quite parallel to Time Inc. yielding Matt Cooper’s electronic notes, which were in his magazine’s system, why is so little being made of this? The Times has long said it had no notes, but that may be because they never got beyond Miller’s notepad.

— What exactly is going on with the Miller legal team? Is Floyd Abrams really the fall guy for letting this drag on so long? Or has Miller changed her tune under the influence of Bob Bennett, one of her other lawyers? Then there’s the battle between Libby’s attorney, Joseph Tate, and Abrams. After Tate and Libby insisted they told Abrams a year ago that Libby gave his waiver freely, Abrams wrote to Tate disputing certain aspects of his account. In an article for the Times on Saturday, Adam Liptak refers to this as “three recent letters from people involved in the case” who debate “whether a similar deal may have been available for some time and raise questions about why Ms. Miller decided to testify now.”

— Will we ever know who, in the words of Times’ Executive Editor Bill Keller last night, Miller feared she might “implicate” if questioned freely by Fitzgerald?

— What do Miller’s many supporters at key journalist rights groups think now? Reporters Without Borders, for example, hailed her release today, but said the organisation regretted that “she recovered her freedom in exchange for naming her source, albeit with the source?s
agreement, which means that the principle of the confidentiality of sources, one of the pillars of journalism, has been flouted.”

— What does it mean that Libby claims to be shocked, really shocked, that Miller was protecting him–and that he long presumed she was actually shielding others?

— Bonus questions: During an online chat at the Washington Post site, Lucy Dalglish, a strong Miller supporter and executive director of the Reporters Commitee for Freedom of the Press, was asked what questions SHE would like to ask Judy. Dalglish replied:

1. Was Scooter Libby your source for information about Valerie Plame, or were you HIS source?

2. Do you feel manipulated by the White House?

3. Do you think any laws were violated in this case (including perjury)?

–More to come, surely. Stay tuned.

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