Jail time

The New York Times’ Judith Miller has been ordered to jail for refusing to reveal confidential sources. Hyperbole spewed forth by all concerned:

Miller: “If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality, then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press. The right of civil disobedience is based on personal conscience, it is fundamental to our system and it is honoured throughout our history.”

Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times: “Judy Miller made a commitment to her source and she’s standing by it. This is a chilling conclusion to an utterly confounding case.”

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of The New York Times: “Judy has chosen such an act in honouring her promise of confidentiality to her sources. She believes, as do we, that the free flow of information is critical to an informed citizenry.”

The New York Times article on the development contains this telling paragraph: “The case highlights a collision of the press’s right to protect its sources, the government’s ability to investigate a crime and even the Bush administration’s justification for going to war in Iraq.”

The paper is being predictably coy. It was Judith Miller who channelled bogus intelligence before the war, provided by fraudster Ahmed Chalabi, and contributed to an atmosphere of inevitability.

Rosa Brooks writes in the LA Times that Miller is no heroine. “Should Miller have refused to offer anonymity to all those “high-level” sources who sold us a bill of goods on Iraq?” she asks. “Yes.”

Brooks writes: “It’s possible (though not likely) that Miller is covering for a genuine whistle-blower who fears retaliation for fingering, gee, Karl Rove, for instance, as the real source of the leak. But I have another theory. Miller’s no fool; she understood the lesson of the Martha Stewart case: When you find yourself covered with mud, there’s nothing like a brief stint in a minimum-security prison to restore your old luster.”

It pains me to defend or support Miller. Her reputation is tarnished beyond belief after the Iraq intelligence debacle. Her title should be changed from journalist to propagandist. In this case, however, the court’s ruling is indeed incorrect and civil disobedience appears the most principled stand.

Let’s pray Miller doesn’t become a martyr.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common