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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Miller and the NYT: What's Going On?

There is just something wrong with the NYT releasing that letter yesterday from Scooter Libby to Judith Miller. Something doesn't add up.

I think most people are accepting the fact that the Times had the letter from Libby to Miller because they shared an attorney with her, Bob Bennett, and the letter was delivered through him. But if this is how the Times obtained it and they published it against Miller's will (Arianna says Miller is furious), they are in murky ethical water at the very least (the word "skeevy" comes to mind).

Prosecutor ReddHedd maintains that their right to publish this letter against her will is legally subject to whatever agreement Miller had with the NYT regarding attorneys -- i.e., if the Times was footing the bill, they may have made Miller sign some agreement giving them unlimited rights and access to any of her legal communications. But ethically speaking, that is pretty dubious.

Scott Lemieux was also nice enough to do some research with an attorney friend of his who is expert in such things. She had this to say on the subject:
If the lawyer took evidence from Miller and gave it to the NYT without Miller's consent, he would almost certainly be violating ethical canons.  But I'm not certain why the question-writer thinks that the NYT got the letters from Miller's attorney, who got them from Miller.  I.e, the NYT could have gotten them from another source, like Libby.
Scott's friend brings up a point that has needled me -- did they get the documents from another source? The Times is staunchly defending Judy with one hand on its editorial page yesterday, and with the other releasing documents that she claims she doesn't want released. Odd time to fuck her over.

Which leaves me to contemplate three possibilities:

1. At some point the NYT decided, as the Left Coaster speculates, that their fortunes were separate from Miller's. And that somehow releasing the documents serves their own interests, even as she does not feel it serves hers. Which makes them perhaps legally sound, but ethical scumbags at best.

2. Miller's gnashing and wailing of teeth is all bullshit, as is her one woman show as First Amendment martyr. She's perfectly happy about the release of the documents because she believes they exonerate her in some way. Her refusal to name Libby at the press conference, even as the Times named him as her source the day of her release, was all a sham. In the end, all Judy Miller cares about is Judy Miller -- and keeping up appearances.

3. The third possibility is that somebody else leaked the documents to the Times. Which would remove some of their moral gray area (although unless they had never had access to the documents through Bennett, it is still somewhat murky). But having had the documents "leaked" to them, they are under some obligation as journalists to release them. Then the question arises -- why were they not leaked to the WaPo or some other news source? Why only to the (extremely compromised) Times?

We may never know. But something about this just stinks. I sure don't expect the less-than-transparent Times to come clean, but their journalistic and ethical credibility gets ever more fetid.

Update: The answer is evidently "3." Sources at the Times say there has been a coup in the news division by journalists tired of having their careers and the credibility yoked to the bullshit of some NeoCon slag, much to the horror of the brass. Will be blogging about it this afternoon for the HuffPo.

(HuffPo piece up soon, HuffPo editors thankfully more exacting than poodles.)