Morning Report 10/11/05Where’s Judy?


Iraq WMD still embedded in the Times newsroom

Punk’d: Judy Miller (above) or you (look in mirror)?

Angela Merkel finally made the big time: The New York Times brought out its hoary gimmick this morning, devoting a “Woman in the News” piece to the new German chancellor.

Forgive us if we’re more interested right this very second in another “Woman in the News”: Times reporter Judith Miller.

Which makes us think of another Merkel — Fred Merkel — forever enshrined in baseball history with the nickname “Bonehead” for running off the field prematurely in 1908 after a teammate’s base hit (instead of touching second base) and thereby costing his New York Giants a game against the Cubs.

Fred Merkel’s maneuver reminds us that we’re still waiting for the Iraq debacle’s most infamous reporter to get out of embed and touch all the bases for us by telling us exactly what she knows about Plamegate.

But in a bonehead play, she remains hidden in the Times newsroom.

Meanwhile, the paper’s “public editor,” Byron Calame, wrote a ludicrous puff piece on Sunday on what the Times editors think of their readers. Farhad Manjoo, in Salon‘s excellent War Room, says the paper’s silence, meanwhile, about a more important topic — Judy Miller and what she knew and when she knew it — has cast a pall over the paper of broken record’s newsroom.

Their readers, Calame intoned in his piece, are “curious” about life in general. Yes, yes, they’re upscale, he added, but the main thing is that they’re “curious.” Calame wrote:

Who are you? The staff’s descriptions ascribed characteristics to you and your fellow readers that were nearly all positive and praiseworthy — even boastful, in some cases.

Spare us the bullshit. Who the fuck are you? And where’s the expected tell-all from Miller about her conversations with Karl Rove? The paper’s micro-managing of the Judy Miller saga tells us all we need to know about what the paper thinks of its readers.

Now, what do the readers want? We want to know about Miller’s role in Plamegate — my colleague Syd Schanberg, a former Times reporter/editor, for example, just called on her to “come clean.” Speculation is rife, and it’s getting rifer all the time.

We just found out on October 7, for example, that Miller suddenly found some new notes and turned them over to investigators. Adam Entous of Reuters wrote:

A New York Times reporter has given investigators notes from a conversation she had with a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney weeks earlier than was previously known, suggesting early White House involvement before the outing of a CIA operative, legal sources said.

Times reporter Judith Miller discovered the notes — from a June 2003 conversation she had with Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby — after her testimony before the grand jury last week, the sources said on Friday. She turned the notes over to federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and is expected to meet him again next Tuesday, the sources said.

Entous wrote that Miller’s notes “could help Fitzgerald establish that Libby had started talking to reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, weeks before Wilson publicly criticized the administration’s Iraq policy in a Times opinion piece.”

Which led to extremely intriguing speculation by Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake and emptywheel of The Next Hurrah, summed up well by their fellow blogger Mark Kleiman in “Patrick Fitzgerald’s Mousetrap” (thanks to colleague Bob Christgau for alerting me to it). Here’s part of Kleiman’s piecing together of the threads:

Once Miller’s testimony was over, Fitzgerald called her lawyer and said, “Why didn’t your client mention the June conversations when she was asked about them?” It was that phone call that triggered Miller’s sudden discovery of the June notes.

Having caught Miller committing perjury, Fitzgerald is now in a position to, in effect, renege on his agreement to ask her only about her conversations with Libby. Under the terms of that agreement, Fitzgerald can’t compel her to testify about conversations with other people, but she can of course do so voluntarily. And Fitzgerald can tell her lawyer that if she fails to volunteer, she may be looking at substantially more than 85 days behind bars on charges of perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice, being an accessory to Libby’s violations of the Espionage Act, or being a co-conspirator with him and others in those violations. (This is perfectly acceptable prosecutorial conduct, not even close to any ethical line.)

Instead of a mere percipient witness, Miller is now a potential defendant, and Fitzgerald can try to “flip” her against all of her sources, not just Libby.

Is this true? We can’t tell because the Times denies reality by insisting that the current “Woman in the News” is Angela Merkel. Wrong Merkel.