After reading Judith Miller’s account of her dealings with “Scooter” Libby, I am left with one question for the people operating the NYTs: Do you really expect me to continue reading your publication and assign any credibility to the stories that you publish?

I almost picked up the phone and canceled the subscription on the spot.  But I simmered down.  Maybe the NYTs still serves some function in my life, as an inspiration to my fiction writing.

But honestly.  How do they employ a liar.  Defend a liar as a standard bearer in the fight for freedom of the press and investigative journalism.  And allow a liar three-quarters of a page in the Sunday paper to talk about how she lied, and to whom.  Did Jayson Blair get this opportunity?

Am I over the top?  You be the judge:

Exhibit #1

Mr. Fitzgerald asked about a notation I made on the first page of my notes about this July 8 meeting, “Former Hill staffer.”

My recollection, I told him, was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a “senior administration official.”  When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a “former Hill staffer.”  I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request?  Mr. Fitzgerald asked.  No, I don’t recall, I replied.  But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson.

From Ms. Miller’s account of her testimony to the grand jury, published in the NYTs on Sunday, October 16, 2005.

I don’t believe Ms. Miller ever published a story based on Libby’s information.  But that is not the point that bothers me.  She did agree to attribute the information she was getting from Libby to a “former Hill staffer.”  She felt this was okay, because Libby had in fact worked on Capitol Hill.  But if this is the standard used by reporters at the NYTs for attribution on stories of national security, what are any of us ever supposed to believe.  The fact that he was a former Capitol Hill staffer is not relevant.  If she had written a story defending the White House, or attacking Wilson, it would be critical to know that the source of that story was an active employee of one of the principals in the dispute.  It would be like using Joe Torre as a source for a story about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and attributing the information to a former “minor league third base coach for the Toledo Mudhens.”  It is inherently dishonest.  So my respect for any unnamed source in the NYTs just went down to zero.  Nice lie Judy.  And yes, it is possible to use factually true statements to convey a false impression.  And yes, it is lying all the same.

Exhibit #2:

On one page of my interview notes, for example, I wrote the name “Valerie Flame.”  Yet, as I told Fitzgerald, I simply could not recall where that came from, when I wrote it or why the name was mis-spelled.

I testified that I did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby, in part because the notation does not appear in the same part of my notebook as the interview notes from him.


Mr. Fitzgerald asked me about another entry in my notebook, where I had written the words “Valerie Flame,” clearly a reference to Ms. Plame.  Mr. Fitzgerald wanted to know whether the entry was based on my conversations with Mr. Libby.  I said I didn’t think so.  I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall.

Mr. Fitzgerald 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.


I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I was not sure whether Mr. Libby had used this name or whether I just made a mistake writing it on my own.  Another possibility, I said, is that I gave Mr. Libby the wrong name on purpose to see whether he would correct me and confirm her identity.


Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether I ever pursued an article about Mr. Wilson and his wife.  I told him I had not, though I considered her connection to the C.I.A. potentially newsworthy.  I testified that I recalled recommending to editors that we pursue a story.

From Ms. Miller’s account of her testimony to the grand jury, published in the NYTs on Sunday, October 16, 2005.

I have taken testimony from hundreds of witnesses.  And I’ve developed a fairly good bullshit detector.  And this testimony has the scent of a barnyard.

An award winning journalist, at the premiere newspaper in the country, is investigating a story about whether the government may have fixed the intelligence around their desire to go to war, and has agreed to quote the Vice President’s chief-of-staff as a “former Hill staffer,” and she has no idea of the names of the other sources she has talked to on the story, and no idea who gave her the name “Valerie Flame?”  It is simply incredible on its face, and if a jury were forced to decide if this item of testimony were credible, I would bet dollars to donuts that they would come back and tell you it was a knowing fabrication.

Aside from just being an incredible statement, there are specifics which lead me to believe a jury would just not find her to be a credible witness on this point.  The denial that the “Valerie Flame” notation came from Libby, in one breath, coupled with the claim that she lacks knowledge of who gave her that name, in the other, to me, is a hallmark of a lying witness.  It shows a witness with an agenda.  While I find it extremely unlikely that she has lost her memory about who gave her this name, she either has some memory or she doesn’t.  If she has a memory, then it is associated with a time and a person, so she is lying when she says she’s got no clue.  And if she has no memory, then she can’t say that Libby didn’t give it to her.  And therefore, her statement on this issue is a lie one way or the other.

Also troubling: She doesn’t know if Libby gave her the wrong name, or if she made a mistake writing it, or if she may have used a wrong name as a ploy to test his knowledge.  Again, just incredible.  Working on a story of this magnitude, with a source who is the right hand man of the Vice President.  A reporter is just not allowed to forget these details.  Particularly when the story is catapulted into national attention by the scandal that followed.  She knows exactly where and how the name was written in that book, and has a reason not to share it.

Last thing from this exhibit: She pitched this story to the editors at the NYTs and they rejected it according to her testimony.  And at the same time she cannot recall the names of any other sources, or of how the name of Valerie Plame was confirmed to her.  You can’t pitch a story at this level of journalism without the facts.  Even if you are Judith Miller.  So she either lied about pitching the story (which the NYTs editors apparently say) or she lied about not remembering her other sources.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  After all.  She is a liar.

Exhibit #3:

At that breakfast meeting, our conversation also turned to Mr. Wilson’s wife.  My notes contain a phrase inside parentheses: “Wife works a Winpac.”  Mr. Fitzgerald asked what that meant.  Winpac stood for Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control, the name of a unit within the C.I.A. that, among other things, analyzes the spread of unconventional weapons.

I said I couldn’t be certain whether I had known Ms. Plame’s identity before this meeting, and I had no clear memory of the context of our conversation that resulted in this notation.  But I told the grand jury that I believed that this was the first time I had heard that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked for Winpac.  In fact, I told the grand jury that when Mr. Libby indicated that Ms. Plame worked for Winpac, I assumed that she worked as an analyst, not as an undercover operative.

From Ms. Miller’s account of her testimony to the grand jury, published in the NYTs on Sunday, October 16, 2005.

Ms. Miller has been taking notes for stories for over twenty-seven years.  As jurors, you can use your reasonable understanding of the world to evaluate testimony.  And for her to say that in this interview with a source of the highest level, she thought it important to write down Wilson’s wife’s job in her notes, and then for her to testify that she could not remember the context of that note is simply incredible.  As a professional at this elite level, she wouldn’t have taken that note had it not been important to the story she was developing.  And the story was far too big almost immediately for her to have forgotten why the note was important in the first place.

Exhibit #4:

Mr. Fitzgerald also focused on the letter’s closing lines.  “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning,” Mr. Libby wrote.  “They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.”

How did I interpret that? Mr. Fitzgerald asked.

In answer, I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr. Libby.  It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference on national security issues held in Aspen, Colo.  After the conference, I traveled to Jackson, Hole, Wyo.  At a rodeo one afternoon, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me.  He asked me how the Aspen conference had gone.  I had no idea who he was.

“Judy,” he said.  “It’s Scooter Libby.”

From Ms. Miller’s account of her testimony to the grand jury, published in the NYTs on Sunday, October 16, 2005.

I’d conclude that Judy is either lying to us, the reader, in this explanation of her testimony, or she was misleading the grand jury.  If she gave that answer to the grand jury, I can’t imagine a prosecutor wouldn’t follow up with a barrage of questions.  Because her answer is simply non-responsive.  How does this charming tale about her meeting with Libby explain her interpretation.  Other than identifying the Aspen portion of the letter, it says nothing.  So, my suspicion is that Judy just gave us a partial account of her actual testimony in this regard.  But if this was her actual testimony to try and explain away Libby’s bizarre statement in the letter, it is woefully inadequate.

All in all, looking at Miller’s testimony it leaves me wishing for two things.  First, I am saddened that Fitzgerald has given any indication he would not charge her.  Because she is not being forthright.  Second, I am hoping Fitzgerald has a ton of other evidence, because I don’t think a jury would be buying a whole lot of what Judy is selling without a lot of corroboration.

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