`Times' reporter jailed in CIA leak case retires

Miller also embarrassed newspaper with erroneous pre-war articles on weapons in Iraq

November 10, 2005|By NICK MADIGAN | NICK MADIGAN,SUN REPORTER

In an attempt to put an embarrassing episode behind it, The New York Times announced yesterday the retirement of Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter whose involvement in the leak of a CIA officer's name led to the indictment of a high-ranking member of the Bush White House.

The announcement, newspaper officials said, came after weeks of negotiations spurred by the realization that Miller's reporting techniques had been less than scrupulous. Nevertheless, the paper's publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., and its editor, Bill Keller, praised her in statements issued yesterday.

"We are grateful to Judy for her significant personal sacrifice to defend an important journalistic principle," Sulzberger said. Keller, who told members of the staff a few days ago that Miller would never write for the paper again, said yesterday that she "displayed fierce determination and personal courage both in pursuit of the news and in resisting assaults on the freedom of news organizations to report."

The Times officials were referring to her decision to go to jail last summer rather than reveal the name of a news source sought by a federal prosecutor. Miller, 57, spent 85 days in a Virginia jail before deciding to testify, identifying the source as I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Miller said Libby agreed to let her reveal his name.

Libby was subsequently indicted on charges that he obstructed justice and gave false statements to investigators seeking the identity of White House officials who might have illegally identified CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

Miller's departure comes at a time of heightened scrutiny over government leaks. This week, congressional leaders demanded an investigation into the source of a leak to The Washington Post about covert CIA detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

The Times had supported Miller's decision to go to jail and lionized her as a defender of the First Amendment before learning, among other things, that she had not fully informed editors of her reporting regarding the leak of the CIA officer's name.

Questions about Miller's work had been raised earlier, notably on several of her articles before the invasion of Iraq, in which she wrote credulously about the existence of weapons of mass destruction there. The Times apologized to readers for the stories, and Miller acknowledged recently that she had been "totally wrong."

Since her release from jail, Miller had again been a source of distress for the Times.

In a memo to the staff Oct. 21, Keller said she misled her bureau chief in Washington, Philip Taubman, when asked whether she had been approached by Bush administration officials in the Wilson case. Keller used the words entanglement and engagement to describe Miller's relationship with Libby, a characterization that Miller disputed.

Yesterday, Keller shared with his staff a letter he sent Miller as a follow-up to his Oct. 21 memo.

"Those words were not intended to suggest an improper relationship," Keller wrote. "I was referring only to the series of interviews through which you - and the paper - became caught up in an epic legal controversy."

As a condition of her departure, Miller sought space on the Times' opinion page to rebut the allegations. Instead, her response was to be published today among the paper's letters to the editor.

One of Miller's attorneys, Matthew J. Mallow, said yesterday that she does not plan to take another job until at least January, but hopes to continue to lobby for passage of a federal shield law that would protect journalists from having to reveal sources.

Miller's removal will not necessarily alleviate some institutional problems at the Times, said Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra!, a magazine published by the organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

"Beyond Miller retiring, you need to have some reassessment of what the Times thinks journalism is about," Naureckas said. "Why she was allowed to do what she did is still a big question. The whole Jayson Blair fiasco, and one of the reasons Howell Raines is gone, is that no one paid attention to the warnings."

More widely, the notion that leaks might lead to indictments, resignations and congressional inquiries invites the question of whether government officials will begin to think twice before divulging anything to a reporter.

"Leaks are going to dry up," said Rem Rieder, editor of the American Journalism Review. "The real losers are the members of the public."

But S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, was more sanguine.

"Leaking will stop," he said, "when the last disaffected official expires in the arms of the last journalist in Washington."

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.