Just Above Sunset
July 31, 2005 - Judy's Secret and the JAG Protest

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Arianna Huffington, that odd woman who lives a few miles away - in Brentwood, where OJ Simpson didn't commit murder (detailed comments on just who she is from March are here) - has a fairly new and fairly slick group blog, The Huffington Post.  It went live in early May and has been wildly uneven, with posts from Hollywood folks and sportscasters and whatnot - and some solid political stuff.  But Deepak Chopra?  Please.


But it has been settling down.  The posts are getting longer and more substantial, and the news links are first-rate.  One of the shorter but fine posts Thursday, July 28 was from Harry Shearer, providing a link to a video clip of George Bush walking away from a group of reporters, and with his back to them, flipping them off royally.  The contempt shown is pretty amusing.  (Snarky comments on this can be found at Wonkette.)

But Huffington's post of July 28 is the one raising eyebrows.  She reports that inside the New York Times there's a lot of talk that places their jailed reporter, Judith Miller, at the center of the CIA leak scandal.

Assume Huffington knows folks who work there.  Huffington says after Joe Wilson's op-ed appeared on July 6, Miller went ballistic, checked out Wilson with her CIA contacts, found out about his wife, and then passed along the information to Scooter Libby in the White House.

Wow.  The Miller woman started it all?  She obtained the information on Valerie Plame from one of her good friends in the intelligence community and then passed it on to Libby who then passed it on to Rove?

That's the contention:


Here it is: It's July 6, 2003, and Joe Wilson's now famous op-ed piece appears in the Times, raising the idea that the Bush administration has "manipulate[d]" and "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Miller, who has been pushing this manipulated, twisted, and exaggerated intel in the Times for months, goes ballistic. Someone is using the pages of her own paper to call into question the justification for the war - and, indirectly, much of her reporting. The idea that intelligence was being fixed goes to the heart of Miller's credibility. So she calls her friends in the intelligence community and asks, "Who is this guy?" She finds out he's married to a CIA agent. She then passes on the info about Mrs. Wilson to Scooter Libby (Newsday has identified a meeting Miller had on July 8 in Washington with an "unnamed government official"). Maybe Miller tells Rove too - or Libby does. The White House hatchet men turn around and tell Novak and Cooper. The story gets out.

This is why Miller doesn't want to reveal her "source" at the White House - because she was the source. Sure, she first got the info from someone else, and the odds are she wasn't the only one who clued in Libby and/or Rove (the State Dept. memo likely played a role too)… but, in this scenario, Miller certainly wasn't an innocent writer caught up in the whirl of history. She had a starring role in it. This also explains why Miller never wrote a story about Plame, because her goal wasn't to write a story, but to get out the story that cast doubts on Wilson's motives. Which Novak did.


So MILLER felt threatened and got the ball rolling!  Cool.  (Huffington doesn't mention the big man at State who was in charge of all the WMD investigation was John Bolton, who would have known Plame's work, and might have been the insider Miller called.)

Huffington really liked Frank Rich's July 17 column on these matters - he was on the right track - but he didn't go far enough.


But one thing is inescapable: Miller - intentionally or unintentionally - worked hand in glove in helping the White House propaganda machine (for a prime example, check out this Newsweek story on how the aluminum tubes tall tale went from a government source to Miller to page one of the New York Times to Cheney and Rice going on the Sunday shows to confirm the story to Bush pushing that same story at the UN).

So, once again, the question arises (and you can't have it both ways, Frank): when it comes to this scandal, do you want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth or do you want the truth - except for what Judy Miller wants to keep to herself?


The plot thickens.  Or Huffington is way off base.

As for the plot thickening, well, in the Times of July 28 - the same day - Douglas Jehl is reporting there may be a third Bush administration official - in addition to Karl Rove and Scooter Libby - who was actively pushing the Plame story to reporters after Wilson's July 6 op-ed appeared.  Lots of folks have now noted this idea, but no one knows who "the third man" could be.  The deal here is that Walter Pincus of the Washington Post is the latest reporter to say that information about Valerie Plame's role at the CIA was volunteered to him by senior administration officials.

Geez.  As Mark Kleiman comments:


This is going to make it extremely hard for the leakers to get out from under by pretending that the information was either given to them or wheedled out of them by reporters. And, of course, insofar as the officials' accounts of the interactions don't match the journalists, there's the issue of false statements and perjury to consider.

Second-weirdest item in the story: Pincus, who has testified to the grand jury about his conversation, after his source had testified about it, still refuses to make public the name of the source.

Weirdest item in the story, by a long shot: the editors of the New York Times are offering "no comment" to a reporter for the New York Times.

Jehl's story, which treats the press as part of the action in this case rather than as a neutral observer, is exactly the sort of story that should be written. Of course, it is also exactly the sort of story that should have been written two years ago. Just how Jehl, who was on the White House/Plame aspect of the affair early, backed off or was waved off from covering it this way back then would make an interesting tale.

Still, late is better than never, and both Jehl and his editors deserve kudos for writing and running the piece.


Wait.  The Times refuses to talk to its own reporter?  They give him a "no comment?"

Something is up.  God know what it is.

Could it be the whole thing got stared because a reporter got ticked off and called on her buddies in the administration to go get the guy?  Maybe.

Of course that doesn't change the fact someone did the deed - they gleefully blew the agent's cover to score political points, and to warn anyone else who might have any ideas about making the president, or Judith Miller, look bad.

A crime?  At least didn't directly order the cold-blooded murder of up to fifty-six of their pesky opponents who knew too much, as Bill and Hilary Clinton did.  (No, I don't believe that, but it has been asserted.)  Will THAT be the final defense?  At least we didn't murder anyone?


But the Times ran another news item that opened with this: "Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show."
They're reporting our own military was angry that they were being asked to participate in what amounted to torture, and didn't fell that was right?  Seems so.  (The actual JAG memos can be found here.) 


It seems these embarrassing memos were classified for a long time, for obvious reasons - and because folks like and respect military lawyers, given Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men" and that JAG television show, the longest-running drama on CBS.  Having real JAG lawyers say something stinks is not good at all.

Andrew Sullivan gets on his high horse about these newly-released memos here -


... they're important to the debate on military interrogation, why these uniformed men and women are heroes for resisting the president's law-breaking, and why decent conservatives in the Senate understand that this administration's shameful record must be corrected by legislation. The administration is so desperate to retain complete control over detention policies, so as to pick and choose when to torture and abuse prisoners, that they have delayed the military authorization bill to the fall to prevent the McCain and Graham amendments.  [Covered here.]

Deep down, this is a debate about whether the president, in a war with no defined end, can simply place himself above the law whenever he so desires, in order to reverse America's long-standing policy of treating prisoners humanely. It's about resisting praetorian government. It should be a matter of pride that the first people to resist this were not the ACLU, or anti-war campaigners, or prickly bloggers, but the men and women in our armed services who are proud of their traditions and horrified by what this administration has been perpetrating.


I'll buy that.  Praetorian?  Yep.

Curiously I just wrote this to someone I know real well, an officer now serving in Baghdad, who tells me we're doing the right thing over there, and making things better:


I won't argue politics with you. I know you hold the moral high ground, because of who you are, and I suspect I would admire those down the chain and those who command you. Our military is not just first-rate. It is comprised of men of honor. In 1990 I saw that at West Point. I never forgot that. In the eighties I remember chatting with senior commanders at the Pentagon - many stars - some of the most impressive people I ever met, and GOOD people. And then I had a short chat with Frank Carlucci - that little weasel who now runs the Carlyle Group. He was Secretary of Defense then. I remember turning and chatting with a guy who commanded the Atlantic submarine fleet - just to feel clean again.

My gripe is with the civilian leadership - with global strategy, not so much with tactics and implementation, although some of that has been a bit counterproductive at times, to say the least. But in the main, honor and decency is what makes you, and those you command, and those to whom you report, something like heroes.

The Rove-Cheney-Bush folks? No. They need to listen more carefully to the smart, honorable, good folks who have to do the work.

Yes, Bush is nominally your Commander in Chief. You deserve better. And no, Kerry was no better. I don't know who would be. Kerry was just an embarrassment. The fates will decide.


So maybe what I saw at this fellow's graduation at West Point was no fluke.  These JAG officers are good men too, trying to do the right thing.

But thinking about this - how it plays out in the future - one has to concede that the fates won't decide.  The voters will - and the likes of Rove and whoever is the equivalent on the left (if there is one) will work over the voters with this ploy or that, and the media will ride along for the most part, clueless, or stand up now and then and point out bullshit, and perhaps there'll will be another massive attack that will make everyone all fearful and angry (but at whom or what this time?) - and then... who knows?


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....