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Monday, October 10, 2005

Temple of the Dust Bunnies

I really had no idea I would touch such a nerve when I blogged about Judy Miller finding her notes following her release from prison, and speculating about the events that led up to that. For those late to the game, Mark Kleiman actually does a better job of summarizing the "dust bunny theory."

In a nutshell: it posits that Judy thought she could get cute, cut a deal with Fitzgerald to limit her testimony and then lied to the Grand Jury (possibly about the first time she met with Libby, having been coached by him). Fitzgerald busted her, and she's now scrambling to save her ass and offering up her notes from a heretofore unknown meeting with A Boy Named Scooter on June 22.

Since then, a lot of really superb bloggers have offered their thoughts on the "dust bunny theory." Jeralyn at TalkLeft is skeptical that Judy lied before the Grand Jury, and argues that since Judy's June 22 notes were not covered in Fitzgerald's original subpoena (which sought documents from July 6 to July 13), she could not be in trouble for failing to produce them:
I don't see anything from which to conclude she hid the notes and is now in trouble or facing a perjury charge. To the contrary, I think Miller is cooperating with Fitzgerald now. She is not going back to jail period.
Well that may very well be true. But I have to point out that the original subpoena called for "documents and testimony between her and a specified government official [Libby]...concerning Valerie Plame Wilson...or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium."

Judy very much wanted to get out from under that uranium inquiry, and at her post-testimony self-congratulation ceremony was really proud that she had backed Fitzgerald into a corner and pounded him into submission:
I can only tell you that as soon as I received a personal assurance from the source that I was able to talk to him and talk to the source about my testimony, it was only then and as a result of the special prosecutor's agreement to narrow the focus of the inquiry to focus on the way - on that source, that I was able to testify
Now, I have spent the week talking to people who have known and worked with Fitzgerald over the years, and my sense is he could give a rat's ass if Judy stayed in the slam doing pilates in the yard for the next ten years.

If the uranium was coming off the table, he got something for it. Something like extending the scope of his inquiry into June without having to go back for another subpoena.

I'm giving pretty high odds that something like this happened, because -- well -- I'm just not ready to embrace the idea that Judy willfully renounced the dark side and happily turned over notes that Fitzgerald otherwise knew nothing about. It just violates my sense of character, psychology and drama.

In order to believe this, you would have to accept the fact that when Judy returned to the Times, she inhaled the fragrant bouquet of the flowers. She reveled in the warm embraces and the camaraderie. She looked out over the crowd of fellow reporters-in-arms and said, "This is my clan, this is my tribe. I belong here...."

....and then turned around and fucked the entire newsroom.

From the NYT on October 1, in an article written by David Johnston and Richard W. Stevenson, with reporting by Doug Jehl:
Ms. Miller spoke with Mr. Libby first on July 8, when the two met, and on July 12, when they spoke by phone. She was working on an article about banned weapons in Iraq that was not published.

(my emphasis throughout)
The article appeared two days after she cut her deal with Fitzgerald, the day after she testified before the Grand Jury. Now that we know that Miller and Libby first talked about Wilson on the 22nd and not on the 8th, we have to ask -- who is the source for the statements about when Miller and Libby "first" spoke?

Well, there are only two people (presumably) who were party to that conversation, Judy and Scooter. Scooter's career of talking to reporters has been tragically truncated, and he now speaks through his lawyer.

Aside from the shame of having their hands tied behind their backs by a hopelessly complicit management, these reporters are thorough professionals who have shown themselves on repeated occasion to be perfectly capable of adding "...according to sources who have been briefed on the meeting" or some other roadsign to hip the reader when what they are about to read is quite possibly dissembling lawyer bullshit.

One would naturally assume that this information came from the Times' own star reporter, Miller, recently out of jail and anxious to get back with her peeps. And she punks 'em.

Now, the unbelievable part in this theory is not that she tried to make her fellow reporters her bitches -- she'd certainly done it once before to Jehl, a decent guy who's tried to hold the Times to account in the past and who ought to be getting pretty tired of Judy's bullshit at this point. (Note to Jehl: third time's the hat trick, man. Enough's enough.)

No, for me this theory falls apart when Judy has an interlude of honesty standing before Fitzgerald's Grand Jury. Why would she then walk out and lie to Johnston and Jehl and the rest of her "clan?" I'm not buying it. If she was honest with Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury, why did she allow her own paper to print a blatant fabrication on the very next day? If she planned to cop to the June 22 meeting all along, why hang her "tribe" out to dry and make them look even stupider and more uninformed than they had been before in her wake, if that was even possible?

That's the thing about liars. Once they start with a particular lie, they don't make pit stops for honesty. They keep going 'til they're busted.

Also, Fitzgerald interviewed Judy in jail on Thursday, September 29. We assume she told him everything she was going to tell him the next day -- and by all accounts he is a very, very careful and thorough prosecutor. If she had mentioned any notes, my gut feeling is that Fitzgerald would've had them in his hands, pronto. Why wait a week? Why drag Miller in front of the Grand Jury without having seen what could be critical information in the notes first?

For those who want to argue that Miller just "remembered" a bunch of previously forgotten documents outside the scope of the subpoena that she (or the New York Times) simply willingly offered up -- you're going to have to work a little harder to convince my inner novelist.

Update: I got done late last night and forgot to add the props -- to shystee in the comments for the title, to Mark Kleiman's reader who helped congeal my own thoughts on the Niger uranium aspect of Judy's testimony, and to the co-author of the "dust bunny" theory emptywheel, who also adds this in the comments:
And we know, too, that the NYT did their own correcting of the Johnston story. Two days after the fact. But they didn't correct the July 8 date. Which says that, as of Sunday night, the NYT was still operating on the story that Judy first spoke to Libby in July.

I'd add to that the silence of the NYT after this happened. They went from Happy Judy to Taciturn Judy in just a few days. Something happened.
Further, the intrepid and compulsively readable Tom Maguire points to this in the October 1 NYT article:
Lawyers for Ms. Miller would not discuss her testimony. But a legal adviser who has talked with her about her conversations with Mr. Libby said she talked twice to Mr. Libby and did not fully recall all the details, but kept notes that had been turned over to the prosecutor in edited form.
So both Judy AND her legal advisers were sticking to the "talked twice" fiction the day after she testified. Anyone still want to argue she went in and uncharacteristically coughed up the truth to Fitzgerald?

Update 2: From the comments, Roger Ailes says that the Times has printed a correction and now the date is June 23, not June 22. Keeping up with this stuff is a bitch.