New York Times reporter Judith Miller was sent to jail today for refusing to divulge her source to a grand jury investigating who in the Bush administration leaked an undercover CIA operative's name. Media pundits were quick to react with charges that jailing Miller would create a chilling effect and impede the watchdog role of journalists in exposing government corruption.
The Judith Miller case is actually more about a journalist preventing a White House operative from being exposed to criminal prosecution for revealing the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent. Miller is not protecting a whistleblower who revealed government corruption, she is serving to prevent an act of government corruption from being exposed.
The only whistleblower involved in the situation is Valerie Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson. Wilson was dispatched to Niger in 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to obtain uranium for a nuclear weapons program. Wilson found no evidence to support this claim. President Bush then made the Niger uranium claim (the 16 words) in his 2003 State of the Union speech.
Two years ago, Joseph Wilson wrote an article titled What I Didn't Find In Africa which refuted Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Eight days later, his wife Valerie Plame was outed by columnist Robert Novak. According to Novak, two senior administration officials were the source for his information. Reports soon followed that the administration had relied on forged documents regarding the Niger uranium.
There are two likely reasons that "senior administration officials" outed Valerie Plame. First, in retaliation against Joseph Wilson for blowing the whistle on the Niger claims and, second, to send a message to whistleblowers that they would pay a price for bringing politically damaging information to the public's attention.
The CIA was upset about Plame being outed and requested an investigation in September 2003. In December 2003, Patrick Fitzgerald was named as special counsel to investigate the leak. The case has taken many twists and turns in 18 months since the investigation began. (For a complete chronology of the Plame Affair, see the link posted below)
So, who was Judith Miller protecting by refusing to testify about sources before a grand jury? According to a political analyst for MSNBC, it is Karl Rove. Will we ever find out who was behind the leak? Good question - stay tuned as the case unfolds.
There may be poetic justice in Judith Miller being sent to jail. Not just for protecting some political hack for outing an undercover CIA agent in an attempt to squelch real whistleblowers, but for being a key propagandist in building the bogus case for the war on Iraq. Miller's source for much of the propaganda she peddled as truth in the New York Times came from the now discredited Ahmad Chalabi.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Miller would be shilling for war in Iraq. In the run-up to the first Gulf war, Miller teamed up to write a book with a character as dubious as Chalabi. Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie wrote Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf.
Mylroie is associated with the neoconservative gang at the American Enterprise Institute (and the Project for a New American Century) and participated in the propaganda campaign leading to the current war. Mylroie is a conspiracy theorist that has tried to make the case that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the September 11 attacks.
Judith Miller may be correct in refusing to name a confidential source. Then again, what kind of press do we have where journalists feel compelled to protect White House operatives that may be guilty of criminal acts? Maybe Judith will have some time to reflect on the ethics of journalism and the ethics of war propaganda while she is in jail. Maybe justice was somehow inadvertently served in her case.