New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been released after 12 weeks in the can for refusing to testify as to the identity of a confidential source in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation.
She has now faced the grand jury and lawyers involved in the case say Miller named her source as I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Libby had apparently spoken to the Vice President about how to deflect claims that Cheney himself was responsible for sending Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate Saddam Hussein’s alleged attempts to acquire uranium. Cheney’s response was to emphasize that the CIA had send Wilson “on their own initiative.”
These new revelations do little to unravel the central mystery: Did anyone in the White House knowingly blow Plame’s cover?
We do know that two White House sources, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, mentioned that Plame suggested her husband for the mission and that she worked for the CIA. It is plausible to infer that Cheney told his chief of staff about the Plame-Wilson connection. The fact that both Rove and Cheney’s people were talking to reporters about Plame points to a generalized White House strategy to smear Wilson and discredit the damaging assertions he made in a 2003 New York Times editorial.
What we don’t know—and this will be the key to any prosecution that might follow in the wake of Plame’s outing—is whether any of the people involved knew she was a covert agent and deliberately blew her cover. This is the burden that the law requires.
Regardless of the law, however, President Bush has the means—if not the responsibility—to punish those responsible for divulging Plame’s CIA ties. Whether they did so knowingly, these people are responsible for compromising a covert CIA agent and jeopardizing all of the WMD work she had been involved in. How solid President Bush’s commitment to national security is will be determined by how he disciplines those responsible. Don’t hold your breath.
An interesting side note to this story is Judith Miller herself. Why, exactly, did she spent those 12 weeks in prison? According to the Times, the same deal that released Miller to testify against Libby has been on the table for some time. It has been suggested by Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post that she may have stayed in prison to transform herself “from a journalistic outcast (based on her gullible pre-war reporting) into a much-celebrated hero of press freedom.” I suppose that anyone eager to view Miller as the paragon of journalistic virtue should read what New York magazine had to say about her back in June of 2004.
I, for one, think she may have stayed for the food. If her prison was anything like Guantanamo (as has been shrilly pointed out by our elected representatives and Ann Coulter), she may have gotten used to dining on orange glazed chicken, fresh fruit crepes, steamed peas, and mushrooms and rice pilaf. I guess we’ll have to wait for her tell-all book to know for sure.
Originally published as Judith Miller Joins Plame Game