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Saturday, October 15, 2005

How Should I Say This...

As many of you know, the NY Times finally published their initial version of the Judy, Judy, Judy story. Its...interesting. And at times infuriating. But mostly just chock full of what ifs for me. Thought I'd do a run-through of the things that jump out at me the most, as a quick pass, and then will go back and hit some points more in depth in individual posts today and tomorrow. I took two initial pages of notes on my first read-through, but I'm going to condense on this first pass.

Well, I'll say this for Judy Miller -- she knows how to blow a lot of smoke at her fellow reporters at the NY Times. The reporters' tone in their initial story on the Judy connection in all of this was...erm..pissed, to put it mildly.

My first "arrrrgh" moment in the article came at it's 4th paragraph. You know, the one where Judy says she believes the "Valerie Flame" notation comes from another source other than Libby. But, um, she, um, can't remember that source, either.

And when the prosecutor in the case asked her to explain how "Valerie Flame" appeared in the same notebook she used in interviewing Mr. Libby, Ms. Miller said she "didn't think" she heard it from him. "I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall," she wrote on Friday, recounting her testimony for an article that appears today.
Come on! You had 85 days to sit on your butt and do nothing but think about this case, and you can't remember who first told you the name of the CIA NOC at the center of this mess? You have to be kidding me if you think any of us are buying that, let alone Patrick Fitzgerald.

I mean, honestly, there are memory lapses. And then there is just plain idiocy and obstruction. I'm voting for the latter.

The next thing that hit me was that Pinch Sulzberger heard that Judy had been told about Plame, including her name and, presumably then, that Judy was also told that Valerie Wilson was a WMD specialist in WINPAC -- not from Judy, but from Times reporters working on this story.

But Mr. Sulzberger and the paper's executive editor, Bill Keller, knew few details about Ms. Miller's conversations with her confidential source other than his name. They did not review Ms. Miller's notes. Mr. Keller said he learned about the "Valerie Flame" notation only this month. Mr. Sulzberger was told about it by Times reporters on Thursday.
Good heavens, how dense do you have to be to not ask your reporter why she is protecting her source? It was a written policy of the NY Times, and still is, that sources who are using a reporter for criminal means or who are lying to the reporter are not protected sources. Shouldn't Keller and Sulzburger at least asked Judy why it was so damned important that she keep her mouth shut for Scooter Libby? Since when is it whistleblowing to out someone who works for the CIA because her husband pissed you off?!?

And yet, does Pinch have any regrets about how things were handled? Nope. Sure doesn't. I swear, the man is an ostrich with his head buried so far down in the sand he doesn't even remember what the light of day looks like.

But as I'm reading the article, the thing that keeps creeping into my mind is that the reporters are really painting Judy as an egotistical bitch, and a massive Diva -- the Maria Callas of the newsroom, but without the awesome voice any longer to justify the kid glove treatment she is clearly getting from the management.

Douglas Frantz, who succeeded Mr. Engelberg as investigative editor, recalled that Ms. Miller once called herself "Miss Run Amok."

"I said, 'What does that mean?' " said Mr. Frantz, who was recently appointed managing editor at The Los Angeles Times. "And she said, 'I can do whatever I want.' "

Ms. Miller said she remembered the remark only vaguely but must have meant it as a joke, adding, "I have strong elbows, but I'm not a dope."

The snark over Judy's hotel, spa and martini jaunt after being sprung from prison was especially thick, wasn't it? Why do I feel like this story isn't even half-way out yet in terms of NY Times leaks to other news organizations from pissed off reporters. (btw, feel free to e-mail me if you are one -- I'm more than happy to help dish on this.)

Of course, why wouldn't they be pissed. She wouldn't cooperate with them over two interviews. Guess she has to save something for the book deal -- and she couldn't really be bothered to help the newspaper where she has been doing her reporting, what with having to trot off to receive a First Amendment award for keeping her mouth shut and all.

The relationship with Libby? Very cozy -- her "good faith source?" More like cooperative philosophies than source and skeptical, independent reporter. Her tone softens in quotes about Libby, which is odd considering she just spent all that time in jail because of him. She did, apparently, give the goods to Fitz on him though -- the knife twist of saying the letter from Libby regarding prior testimony seemed like coaching to her, too, was unexpected, I must say. But good.
At least she was clearly saying that the information about Wilson's wife came from Libby and not the other way around. We were all thinking that, but couldn't be sure until we heard it from the weasel's mouth. Ahem.

Don't know what to make of the whole Libby/Tate/Judy/Abrams mess of who was telling what to whom about testimony. But I will say this: if Tate was in any way trying to tell her how to testify, or to tell her not to testify if she would be adverse to Libby's interests, then he could be in trouble along with his client.

I was appalled on behalf of reporters at the Times that they knew Judy's source from independent reporting, but weren't allowed to report it. That the editorial staff sat on stories that might hint at anything that would touch on Judy's issues. I mean, there is (a) protecting your reporter and her first amendment rights, and there is (b) a cult of personality and protecting the paper's asses from anyone finding out that it was complicit in enabling the Administration to br4eak the law. Raise your hand if (b) sounds more plausible.

The one other bit that jumped out at me was the wording on what her testimony was limited to -- the article says "Libby and the Wilson matter." To me, it would be nice to know whether that was vetted wording from Bob Bennett. And, if so, that is worded much broader than just about Libby. Maybe. Or, it is just about Libby and everything dealing with Wilson, and no potential illegalities that Judy might know about prior to the Wilson matter coming up. Or...well, it is pointless to speculate on this, but some clarification from someone at the Times on how this was meant would be nice.

As I said, that's my first pass. I'm going to go line by line now and will post more detailed analysis this evening and tomorrow. As will Jane. Can't wait to wade through comments on this -- whew! For a weasel, she at least knows how to throw a lot of smoke up in the air.

UPDATE: And I see that Karl Rove cancelled this morning's appearance at the Kilgore pancake breakfast fundraiser in Tyson's Corner. Curious. Didn't go back to work yesterday. No appearance today. Hmmmm....

UPDATE #2: Missed this and caught it as I was going back through my notes. Why would Miller lie to her editor, Taubman, when he asked if she was one of the journalist to whom disclosure was made about Plame that were reported in the WaPo? If she had, indeed, been trying to get Abramson to let her write a story about Wilson and his wife, and had told Abramson that she had sources on the story, why then turn around and lie to Taubman and say that no one from the WH had told her about Plame? That makes absolutely no logical sense and just paints her as a big liar. (Like she needs help with that, anyway, with all the "I don't recall." crap, but still...)