It's time to stick up for journalism.
June 28, 2005
New York Times reporter Judith Miller played an execrable role in the lead up to the Iraq War. She funneled false information onto the front page of the Times, information that backed up the Bush Administration's bogus claims about the threat Iraq allegedly posed.
In no small measure, she helped further the propaganda offensive of the Bush Administration.
For that, I believe she should have been disciplined, if not fired.
Subsequently, her reporting on the Oil for Food scandal at the UN and her reporting on British MP George Galloway has betrayed her biases.
But now I rise to her defense because she refuses to release the names of her sources, to whom she promised confidentiality, while doing reporting on the Valerie Plame-Robert Novak story. Miller never actually wrote anything on it, but that didn't stop the Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald from subpoenaing her and dragging her in front of a judge who cited her for contempt.
Judge Thomas Hogan has sentenced her to as much as 18 months in jail. He has also slapped the same sentence on Matthew Cooper of Time magazine.
On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeals.
Cooper has not said what he will do next.
But Miller remains defiant, insisting she will go to jail before disgorging her sources.
"Journalists simply cannot do their jobs without being able to commit to sources that they won't be identified," she said. "Such protection is critical to the free flow of information in a democracy."
Journalists should have cover, under the First Amendment, to go about their work in a legal manner, and providing confidentiality is, at times, pivotal to the news gathering process.
Journalists should also have cover under the same confidentiality principle that grants privileges to lawyers with their clients, doctors with their patients, and spouses with each other.
(Anthony Lewis explores this principle in the July 14 issue of The New York Review of Books, though he comes to a different conclusion.)
Fitzgerald's pursuit of Miller and Cooper is more than passing strange. The prosecutor has not brought charges against Novak, much less against anyone in the White House.
Instead, he is pursuing journalists for just doing their jobs.
I praise Judith Miller for standing up to him, and for risking time behind bars in doing so.
That is courage.