In my article in the Weekly Standard last night, I criticized Judith Miller and her lawyer Bob Bennett for pretending that she sat in jail for three months because her “confidential” source, Scooter Libby, hadn’t called on the phone to ask her pretty-please to testify. As opposed to just waiving the privilege in a document signed by Libby and his lawyer Joe Tate, which he did a year ago. I argued that there was obviously another reason why Miller languished in jail, and that the time sequence, as well as statements made by Miller and Bennett, showed that the real issue was a side agreement that Bennett made with the Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. I noted two possibilities in that regard: the Special Prosecutor may have agreed not to ask Miller about sources she had for her information about Valerie Plame other than Libby, or he may have agreed not to ask Miller about a wholly separate, and much more serious, issue involving Miller allegedly tipping a terrorist-supporting group to the fact that they were about to be raided by the FBI. Or both. For the details, read my article.
As it happens, at least one of the questions I raised was answered definitively yesterday by Miller’s former lawyer, Floyd Abrams, on CNN’s Reliable Sources program. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, a journalist for whom we have considerable respect, pressed Abrams about Miller’s claim that it was Libby’s fault that she spent three months in jail. Abrams pretty quickly coughed up the real story:
KURTZ: I talked to people at the “New York Times” who are angry and confused about this. They say, understanding — look, many journalists have used confidential sources. Most of us have not gone to jail. They say you could have had something approaching the same deal before she went to jail. You and Judy Miller took an absolutist position — we cannot possibly betray the source — by going to jail and what happens at the end? She takes the waiver and testifies before the grand jury.
ABRAMS: We couldn’t have had the same deal. Indeed, in one respect I tried to get a deal a year ago. I spoke to Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, and he did not agree at that time to something that he later did agree to, which was to limit the scope of the questions he would ask, so as to assure that the only source he would effectively be asking about was Mr. Libby. She has other sources and was very concerned about the possibility of having to reveal those sources, or going back to jail because of them.
So there you have it. Abrams, who is a very reputable guy, told the truth: as has long been rumored, Judith Miller was told about Valerie Plame’s employment with the CIA by several sources. This seems highly relevant. What if those sources included other journalists? That would show that Plame’s desk job with the CIA was widely known. Or, what if another of her sources was Joe Wilson, Plame’s husband, who rivals Jesse Jackson in his addiction to publicity? Wouldn’t it be important to know that Wilson himself went around telling people that his wife was a CIA employee, if that was the case? And what if one of Miller’s sources was Plame herself?
Patrick Fitzgerald is considering whether to indict Karl Rove or Scooter Libby for the “crime” of revealing the deep, dark secret that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA in Virginia. (Never mind that Plame herself posed for a Vanity Fair photo shoot in which she spoofed her role as a “spy.” Some covert agent!) In that context, isn’t it vital to know who else was telling journalists about Plame’s job? Isn’t it important to know whether Plame, Wilson or the CIA made any effort to keep her employment secret? Can Fitzgerald possibly contemplate sending an administration official to jail for disclosing a “secret” that was common knowledge in the Washington press corps?
I certainly hope not. But it is hard to think of any logical reason why Fitzgerald would be uninterested in Judith Miller’s other sources. According to Abrams, he apparently was interested a year ago. Why doesn’t he care now? The only explanation I can come up with is that in the past year, Fitzgerald has concluded that there is nothing to the Plame story, and only wants Miller to testify about her conversation with Libby–which Libby himself has already described to the grand jury–so he can wrap up his investigation and report that no crime was committed. Otherwise, it appears that a grotesque injustice is possible.