RAW STORY informs us, via a New York Times spokesperson, that Judith Miller is taking a little holiday. Note the wording:
“until we decide”
That suggests that this is not a voluntary leave.
The two extremely disappointing New York Times stories finally covering this ordeal, The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal, by Times reporters Don Van Natta Jr., Adam Liptak and Clifford J. Levy, along with Miller’s own account, My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room depict a news organization scrambling to maintain any integrity it might have left after this long, sordid affair. Despite some attempts by some editors to stand behind Judith Miller, it is clear that her situation has caused considerable friction in the offices of the Times and that her presence is not supported by several fellow staff members. At this juncture, the smartest thing the NYT management could do would be to cut their losses, fire her and move on.
Hunter over at Daily Kos writes that Miller has sunk Libby with her testimony. I’m not so sure. Her inability to “recall” why she had written the name “Valerie Flame” in her notebook, despite the fact that Plame’s name would become the subject of such a spectacular story mere weeks later coupled with her sweetheart deal with Fitzgerald that he limit her testimony only to discussions she had with Scooter Libby, show a conniving strategy on her part to either cover for Libby as her source of Plame’s name or to hide the name of the real source from Fitzgerald and the grand jury. It appears she may have gotten away with her plan.
She proclaims that Libby had not given her the “personal waiver”, free from coercion, until she spoke to him on the phone and received the now infamous “aspens are turning” letter. Yet, in the same breath, she states bluntly that she was tired of sitting in jail. She knew she had something that Fitzgerald wanted, but apparently she played her cards well enough not to give him exactly what she did have.
The issue of whether or not the fight between the lawyers amounted to some sort of witness tampering is best left to legal scholars and, in the end, the grand jury. We don’t have the full picture yet.
Some postulate that Libby is at least guilty of passing on classified information and that that may land him in trouble. The intricacies of the laws involved may not allow such charges to be brought, depending on how Libby characterized his part in his talks with Miller. There has only been one conviction to date under the relevant Espionage Act statute since its inception. Even a charge under a related statute that might be easier to prosecute is far from being assured at this point. Libby may not be in the clear, but I doubt we’ll see any big charges against him – although any charge could cost him serious political points in this scandal-infested administration.
In the end, we’re not much further along than we were on Friday. The accounts given by Miller and the NYT reporters offer many tidbits for discussion about what really happened at the newspaper while this was going on and we can even speculate on the fate of Scooter Libby, but we are far from knowing everything Fitzgerald and the grand jury have at this point or what direction this investigation might actually take in the end.
So, once again, we are left waiting and wanting and the New York Times is left as just a shell of its former greatness. Restoring its integrity as the paper of record will best be served by the firing of Judith Miller and a new atmosphere of openness and support for all NYT reporters and staff members – never again placing a journalist like Miller on the untouchable pedestal of self-proclaimed importance and superiority.