Home / Jail-time, A Good Thing For Journalism and Judith Miller

Jail-time, A Good Thing For Journalism and Judith Miller

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Now that’s she’s out of jail and can freely read the Internet and even respond, let me say this about New York Times reporter Judith Miller to Judith Miller – I’m glad you went to jail.

She’ll be testifying today in front of a grand jury, sharing conversations she had with Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney. She was put in a detention center in Alexandria, Va. on President Bush’s birthday, July 6.

Though you never bylined a story about the Valerie Plame case, Judith, you wouldn’t reveal your sources in the federal case being built surrounding the issue of who outed CIA agent Valerie Plame from her undercover status.

You’re a reporter too-willingly led to believe anything by your multitude of sources, but I love you because you and your Joey Ramone retro-look stood up to be discounted by those you were protecting.

You Ms. Miller are a very public person in a very public case and so you were our shining example of reporters who have a backbone and use it.

A backbone underneath a shiny leather jacket.

I’m glad one stinking reporter was seen to have a spine. Because those, like me, who populate the world of journalism talk a lot about sources; the sanctity of sources, the importance of working with sources to get to the truth, and the special privileges and laws that are created to preserve and protect this right; not only for journalists but authors and by logical extension whistle-blowers themselves.

Unfortunately there is no distinct and separated federal right of source protection given and so sources get burned. There are other legal avenues to pursue here, but all of them would have meant many more months in

It’s a lot of talk about something most people really couldn’t care less about. But everyone understands jail-time. Maybe you’ve helped people understand that if they would kill a man for looking twice at their 10-year-old daughter and be glad to go to jail, that reporters would 1) Gladly get your side of the story because people understand that motivation and 2) Be willing to go to jail for something they think is vitally important toward their duty to speak truth to power and afflict the comfortable.

Now it’s true this one is a little backward. You let power speak untruths to you. That only matters to those who are paying attention and those who think you should be paying a little more attention to your work. What people will get out of your 85 days in the pokey is that Time magazine’s Matt Cooper is just a wussy. And his boss, editor-in-chief Norman Perlstein is the kind of boss all the rest of us can only dream of. Dream of killing with a blunt object. Like wit. A witty baseball bat.

Judith, you’ve got more balls than both of them put together. Or is that base-on-balls?

In your statement, given through the New York Times, you said what you could:

“My source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations. I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. I chose to take the consequences – 85 days in prison – rather than violate that promise

The fact that you’re going to now come and testify does not damage this legacy and the strong stand you took one bit. Not all. Ok, well maybe just a little bit. Because none who are paying attention believe that Lewis “Scooter” Libby only now – for whatever reason – decided to give you a letter of recommendation to spill the beans. You know if he waited this long there would be something important he didn’t want you to say. Either that or he was just tickled thinking of you in prison.

Or your paper was going to “Do A Perlstein” anyway.

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • Well said.

  • Maurice

    Actually it appears that she is seeking her 15 minutes of fame. She was given a waiver over a year ago through attorneys. That wasn’t good enough for her. She insisted Scooter tell her in person. In other words she was in the same position as Novak – she just wanted attention.

    Kind of reminds me of Sheehan….

  • I don’t think that’s the case at all, Maurice. She wanted a personal waiver because she didn’t believe that the one given through the lawyer was given voluntarily.

    And I’m not saying she was wrong about that, but if she was, why did it take Scooter Libby a whole year to give her the personal waiver? Why didn’t he give her one as soon as she refused the one she got through attorneys?

  • Maurice

    Michael –

    I have no idea.

    I agree with you – it seems odd.

  • Patrick Mattimore

    How is it possible that an experienced reporter in over 9 months before confinement was unable to verify that the waiver was coming personally from Libby? And why has The NYT taken on this pilgrimmage for one of their own who had been thoroughly discredited before this story broke because of her own inept reporting about the Iraq War? Finally, why has The NYT consistently refused to allow a free speech debate on the issues surrounding this case both in its editorial pages and letters to the editor?

  • It wasn’t that the waiver didn’t personally come from Libby. It was the possibility that he was ordered to waive the confidentiality. And for all we know, she did attempt to verify it and Libby told her straight out that he had not given her the waiver of his own free will.

    Miller’s going to testify, of course, and let’s hope that when she does we’ll finally get the whole story.

  • I’m afraid that when we do get the whole story on this from Miller those on the left are going to find themselves very unsatisfied with the result.


  • Somehow that doesn’t make me feel less interested in hearing the whole story.

  • Great piece, Temple. Where do you work as a journalist?

    You know what part is killing me today? That her own paper got scooped on her leaving jail.

  • Maurice


  • ochairball

    I’m glad Judith went to jail. But for another reason: She deserved it.

    Do you really think she went to jail to “protect her source?” Come on. There’s more to the picture than that.

    The notion of protecting the source at all costs is bogus. I wouldn’t protect a source that doesn’t mind seeing me carted off to jail. please. There are a lot of reasons not to protect a source.
    Good journalists can get the “truth” without sucking up to sources.

    Journalists that take that high and mighty approach can look forward to a big fall. Journalism is not a noble profession. It’s based on advertising.

    Kind of funny, too, that there was little outrage from the public. That’s because newspapers have such little impact on society.

    Newspapers don’t understand their readers and they’re proving they don’t understand business.

  • I ended up deciding to do another piece on this which should be posted later in the night.
    For now a rough draft of it is

    Dave, I think you’re right. Your comment is one I address in it.

    And if we do find out what really happens, I bet it won’t be in the NYT. It’ll get scooped again.

  • >>Kind of funny, too, that there was little outrage from the public. That’s because newspapers have such little impact on society.

    Online or offline newspaper outlets? nytimes.com, thedailyworld.com?

    Don’t you think it’s more apathy in general about “that stuff going on in Washington?”

    There are the vast majority – start with the 50 percent of people who don’t vote even in a POTUS election – who just naturally don’t pay attention.

    Flat out. It used to be higher

    The blogosphere is becoming, but is not yet , a good reflection of society’s interest in politics.

    If she had been a teacher screwing her students people would read all about it.

    I wish people didn’t try and reduce this to a left vs right issue. It’s so much more than that.

  • Its an apathy vs getting involved thing.
    A caring vs not caring thing.

  • I find the whole thing somewhat interesting, not the Plame business, which is clearly pretty trivial, but Miller’s willingness to go to jail for so long is kind of intriguing.


  • ochairball

    i don’t think there’s apathy at the grassroots level. people are dying for change. that is truly evident in the blogsphere.

    it’s just that newspapers don’t know how to tap into that because most are arrogant and deserve the elite media title. Many don’t even bother to respond to readers. that’s not part of their job, they say. journalists tend to be insecure intellectuals, out of touch with the “man on the street.”

    for newspapers now, it’s all about spinning a good yarn.

    as far as voting, frankly, i think i’ve reached the conclusion that voting isn’t going to change a darned thing because no matter who is elected, they eventually succumb to corruption.

    i think all we can do is hold elected officials’ feet to the fire, grass roots pressure. you know, like the whole cindy sheehan movement. politicians aren’t cutting it.

  • >>as far as voting, frankly, i think i’ve reached the conclusion that voting isn’t going to change a darned thing because no matter who is elected, they eventually succumb to corruption. << Not everyone is corruptible. Barry Goldwater was never corrupted, and Ron Paul remains utterly uncorruptible. I think it helps to be half crazy. Dave

  • Scott Butki

    Sounds like a good campaign slogan: Vote for me since I’m not all there.

    Getting back to Miller, how long do you think one of us would last if we went to jail for our principles?

    Incidentally my new post on Miller is now up here

  • Jail ain’t shit if you’re following principles. Especially when you’re shacked up in a “comfort zone” jail.