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More Miller Fallout

Read New York Times public editor Barney Calame on the Judy Miller mess. Here's his "nut graph."

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The Times must now face up to three major concerns raised by the leak investigation: First, the tendency by top editors to move cautiously to correct problems about prewar coverage. Second, the journalistic shortcuts taken by Ms. Miller. And third, the deferential treatment of Ms. Miller by editors who failed to dig into problems before they became a mess.
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Here's Miller's response via email to Calame:

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Barney,

I'm dismayed by your essay today. You accuse me of taking journalistic "shortcuts" without presenting evidence of what you mean and rely on unsubstantiated innuendo about my reporting.

While you posted Bill Keller's sanitized, post-lawyered version of the ugly, inaccurate memo to the staff he circulated Friday, which accused me of "misleading" an editor and being "entangled" with I. Lewis Libby, you declined to post the answers I sent you to six questions that we touched on during our interview Thursday. Had you done so, readers could have made their own assessment of my conduct in what you headlined as "the Miller mess."

You chose to believe Jill Abramson when she asserted that I had never asked her to pursue the tip I had gotten about Joe Wilson's trip to Niger and his wife's employment at the C.I.A. Now I ask you: Why would I, the supposedly pushiest, most competitive reporter on the planet, not have pushed to pursue a tantalizing tip like this? Soon after my breakfast meeting with Libby in July, I did so. I remember asking the editor to let me explore whether what my source had said was true, or whether it was a potential smear of a whistleblower. I don't recall naming the source of the tip. But I specifically remember saying that because Joe Wilson's op-ed column had appeared in our paper, we had a particular obligation to pursue this. I never identified the editor to the grand jury or publicly, since it involved internal New York Times decision-making. But since you did, yes, the editor was Jill Abramson.

Obviously, Jill and I have different memories of what happened during that turbulent period at the paper. I did not take that personally, though she never chose to discuss with me our different recollections about my urging her to pursue the story. Without explanation, however, you said you believed her and raised questions about my "trust and credibility." That is your right. But I gave my recollection to the grand jury under oath.

My second journalistic sin in your eyes was agreeing to Libby's request to be considered a "former Hill staffer" in his discussion about Wilson. As you acknowledged, I agreed to that attribution only to hear the information. As I also stressed, Scooter Libby has never been identified in any of my stories as anything other than a "senior Administration official."

The third "troubling" ethical issue you raised, my access to secret information during my embed in Iraq, had been fully clarified by the time you published. No one doubts that I had access to very sensitive information or that I did work out informal arrangements to limit discussion of sensitive intelligence sources and methods to the most senior Times editors. Though there was occasionally enormous tension over whether and when I could publish sensitive information, the arrangement ultimately satisfied the senior officers in the brigade hunting for unconventional weapons, the Times editors at the time, and me. It also led to the publication of my exclusive story that debunked some of my own earlier exclusives on the Pentagon's claim that it had found mobile germ production units in Iraq.

I fail to see why I am responsible for my editors' alleged failure to do some "digging" into my confidential sources and the notebooks. From the start, the legal team that the Times provided me knew who my source was and had access to my notes. I never refused to answer questions or provide any information they requested. No one indicated they had doubts about the stand I took to go to jail.

Your essay clearly implies that the Times and I did something wrong in waging a battle that we did not choose. I strongly disagree. What did I do wrong? Your essay does not say. You may disapprove of my earlier reporting on Weapons of Mass Destruction. But what did the delayed publication of the editor's note on that reporting have to do with the decision I made over a year later, which the paper fully supported, to protect our confidential sources? I remain proud of my decision to go to jail rather than reveal the identity of a source to whom I had pledged confidentiality, even if he happened to work for the Bush White House.

The Times asked me to assume a low profile in this controversy. I told everyone that I had no intention of airing internal editorial policy disputes and disagreements at the paper, as a matter of principle and loyalty to those who stood by me during this ordeal. Others have chosen a different path, ironically becoming "confidential sources" themselves.

You never bothered to mention in your essay my decision to spend 85 days in jail to honor the pledge I made. I'm saddened that you, like so many others, have blurred the core issue of that stand and I am stunned that you refused to post my answers to issues we had discussed on your web site at the critical moment that Times readers were forming their opinions.

Judith Miller

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Three observations:

1) Miller is finito at the Times.

2) The collateral damage is spreading quickly to both Keller and Sulzberger. And while it's hard to believe there could be another masthead cataclysm at the Times a few short years after the Howell Raines fiasco, you can't rule it out at this point.

3) Let's give Miller and Abramson 12 ounce gloves and headgear and let them go at it for $24.99 a pop on pay-per-view.
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