Saturday, July 16, 2005

Judy Judy Judy


George Freeman, an assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company, re-affirmed that Miller would not say who that source was. "She has never received," Freeman told Liptak, "what she considers an unambiguous, unequivocal and uncoerced waiver from anyone with whom she may have spoken."

But Liptak added: "Freeman declined to say what efforts, if any, Ms. Miller and her lawyers have made to obtain a satisfactory waiver." Matt Cooper was ready to go to jail himself until his lawyer worked out such a satisfactory waiver from Rove. Others got waivers from Libby that satisfied them.

Asked whether Miller provided information about Plame's identity to the source, and not the other way arouind, Freeman said: "Judy learned about Valerie Plame from a confidential source or sources whose identity she continues to protect to this day. If the suggestion is that she is covering up for her source or some fictitious source, that is preposterous. Given that she is suffering in jail, it is also mean-spirited."

I wonder what it would take (if true) for Keller and the gang to come to the conclusion that Miller is a player and not simply a reporter. Her behavior in Iraq should've been enough.

According to a public affairs officer (PAO) on the scene, she sought an embed arrangement different from the "terms of accreditation to report" which she had originally signed. Most of her contacts had been replaced by new people from David Kay's Iraqi Survey Group (ISG). Col. Richard McPhee, commander of the 75th Exploitation Task Force in Iraq, whose teams had been looking for evidence of WMDs in the spring, refused an interview with her.

Howard Kurtz's various revelations undoubtedly have impacted negatively on her already strained relations with the U.S. military in Iraq. "General Judith Miller" -- as Shafer has dubbed her -- was accused by a half dozen officers of intimidating soldiers searching for WMD. An Army officer told Kurtz: "Judith was always issuing threats of either going to The New York Times or to the Secretary of Defense." Another charged: "She ended up almost hijacking the mission" of the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha (META), which was charged with examining potential Iraqi weapon sites after the war.

Based on several negative comments by military personnel to me, it is unlikely that Miller will again be given such unique access to those in the hunt, or that they will even talk to her. An e-mail message to me from her PAO sergeant escort regarding a three-week trip with META in April stated: "She did not have a SECRET clearance." She was "high maintenance and came to the field badly prepared. The problem I had with her was that whenever other members of the press showed up, which they did as embeds from other units or as unilaterals, she would insist that I get rid of them and that the 75th's story was her story, exclusively. She didn't seem to have any idea that the Army needed as much coverage of the 75th's mission as possible and that excluding everyone else was detrimental to the credibility of what the 75th was trying to accomplish. Never mind that we didn't find a damn thing ... She could not understand why Michael Gordon, covering the war at ground force headquarters, could have his stuff read and cleared at any time of the day or night while she had to wait. She would talk about the 'news cycle' and how important it was, and threaten me or my boss with the wrath of the NYT or her buddies up at DoD."

Team leader Navy Cdr. David Beckett of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, in a brief phone conversation, sarcastically dismissed the idea of her "supposedly having some sort of clearance." However, Colonel McPhee, the overall task force commander, is known to have said that Miller was "cleared at the secret level." Regardless, it was generally believed and commonly said in the field that Miller was cleared for information classified "secret." Either she pulled off a hoax, or a very unusual clearance for a journalist was granted by some Pentagon authority.


According to Pomeroy, as well as an editor at the Times, Miller had helped negotiate her own embedding agreement with the Pentagon—an agreement so sensitive that, according to one Times editor, Rumsfeld himself signed off on it. Although she never fully acknowledged the specific terms of that arrangement in her articles, they were as stringent as any conditions imposed on any reporter in Iraq. “Any articles going out had to be, well, censored,” Pomeroy told me. “The mission contained some highly classified elements and people, what we dubbed the ‘Secret Squirrels,’ and their ‘sources and methods’ had to be protected and a war was about to start.” Before she filed her copy, it would be censored by a colonel who often read the article in his sleeping bag, clutching a small flashlight between his teeth. (When reporters attended tactical meetings with battlefield commanders, they faced similar restrictions.)

As Miller covered MET Alpha, it became increasingly clear that she had ceased to respect the boundaries between being an observer and a participant. And as an embedded reporter she went even further, several sources say. While traveling with MET Alpha, according to Pomeroy and one other witness, she wore a military uniform.

When Colonel Richard McPhee ordered MET Alpha to pull back from a search mission and regroup in the town of Talil, Miller disagreed vehemently with the decision—and let her opinions be loudly known. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz reprinted a note in which she told public-affairs officers that she would write negatively about his decision if McPhee didn’t back down. What’s more, Kurtz reported that Miller complained to her friend Major General David Petraeus. Even though McPhee’s unit fell outside the general’s line of command, Petraeus’s rank gave his recommendation serious heft. According to Kurtz, in an account that was later denied, “McPhee rescinded his withdrawal order after Petraeus advised him to do so.”

Miller guarded her exclusive access with ferocity. When the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman overlapped in the unit for a day, Miller instructed its members that they couldn’t talk with him. According to Pomeroy, “She told people that she had clearance to be there and Bart didn’t.” (One other witness confirms this account.)

As MET Alpha began its work in April, Miller sent home a blockbuster about an Iraqi scientist in her unit’s custody. According to Miller, the scientist had told the unit that Iraq had destroyed chemical- and biological-warfare equipment on the eve of the war. And—here’s the real coup—the scientist had led the squad to buried ingredients for chemical-weapons production. Although she told readers that her unit prevented her from naming these precursor elements or the scientist, the military did permit Miller to view him from a distance. “Clad in nondescript clothes and a baseball cap, he pointed to several spots in the sand where he said chemical precursors and other weapons material were buried,” she wrote. And on PBS’s NewsHour, she was even more emphatic: “What they found is a silver bullet in the form of a person.”

But these scoops, like the story about the scientist, tended to melt quickly in the Iraqi desert. And very soon into the postwar era, the costs of her embedding agreement and her passion for the story became clear. Even though she had more access to MET Alpha, the best seat in the house, she was the only major reporter on the WMD beat to miss the story so completely. MET Alpha was a bumbling unit; and even if it hadn’t been bumbling, it wouldn’t have made a difference—there were no WMDs. The Post’s Gellman, on the other hand, hadn’t embedded with a unit, and didn’t negotiate any access agreements. What’s more, he had the intellectual honesty to repudiate some of his own earlier reporting. He came away from Iraq with a stark, honest story: “Odyssey of Frustration: In Search for Weapons, Army Team Finds Vacuum Cleaners.”