The NYT retreats, incoherently, on Miller.

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 24 2005 1:58 PM

The NYT Retreats, Incoherently

An "entanglement" exception to the First Amendment?

(Continued from Page 2)

But, if you believe what the NYT claims it believes about the need for a press "shield" to prevent reporters from having to reveal their sources, Stevenson's e-mail is nonsense. The paper wants sources to come forward and give its reporters information, which the paper will then publish for the public's benefit. That's the theory. If the paper than decides, unilaterally, to strip the privilege from any reporter it deems hasn't "conducted him or herself" in a sufficiently "open," "candid," or "ethical" manner--or just "generally" doesn't "deserve" protecting--where does that leave the poor sources, or the public's vaunted right to know? Are sources, before they talk to NYT reporters, supposed to ask themselves "Is this one of the fine upstanding Times reporters who will be supported when she goes to jail to protect me, or is this one of those secretive, immoral Times reporters who might later tell a lie to her editors, with the result that the paper decides to sell me down the river?" If you're a source and you want to be safe, before you talk to a Times reporter you'd better get to know her--get to know all about her. But that way lies entanglement!

Keller's incoherent, sloppy retreat on Miller is less impressive than the steadfast lukewarmness of his earlier defense of her. The most plausible way to interpret yesterday's email is as a) an admission that the Times' First Amendment claims were insupportable and ill-advised from the get-go, and the paper should have cut a deal like everyone else even knowing what they knew when the case began;** b) an admission that Miller should have been fired after the flaws in her WMD reporting became apparent, long before any special prosecutor entered the picture; and/or c) a muddled attempt to placate a staff angry that Miller hasn't conducted herself well over the years (and maybe also that she was on the Bushie side of the Iraq War debate).

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Nothing Keller has recently learned--or that he might have learned by grilling Miller early on--would seem to change any of this, though it's convenient for him and Miller's other out-of-the-woodwork critics to pretend that it does.

**--Update: Keller is more explicit about cutting a deal in the version of his email sent to Public Editor Byron Calame. ... 11:39 P.M. link

Miller/Libby on a See-Saw? Jake Tapper makes an intriguing point about the attacks on Judith Miller from within her own paper:

Dowd also all-but calls Miller a liar, saying it's not "credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like 'Valerie Flame.' Nor does it seem credible that she doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she 'did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby.'" She details Miller's myriad other credibilty issues as well…. In other words? The NYT is gift-wrapping Judy Miller as an unbelievable unreliable witness -- along with her self-outed nay-saying colleagues Taubman, Keller, Dowd and Abramson.

The case against Scooter relies upon Judy's credibility -- which the PAPER OF RECORD is undercutting and shredding.

The New York Times BMOC club will amply supply defense exhibits A through Z for Mr. Libby, should he ever need them. [Emph. added]

Of course, some of Miller's evidence is in the form of written notes, which rely less on her credibility. And a jury might choose to believe what she says when it incriminates her WMD-ally Libby but disbelieve the statements Dowd cites, which tend to help him. ... Still, there may no easy answers for the anti-Bush, anti-war camp in the wish-fulfillment department. Only tough choices! Miller trashed, or Libby jailed? Sometimes you can't have it all. 10:01 P.M. link

A New York Times Co. press release from Thursday  boasts of an increase in page views at the free portions of the paper's Web site--including "profiles of the Supreme Court nominees"--but somehow neglects to mention the stunning success of TimesSelect's pay-for-pundits service. How long will they be able to keep hiding their light under a bushel? [Thanks to T.M.] ... Update: N.Z. Bear, keeper of the TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem, notes that even the traffic numbers the NYT boasts about make it only slightly bigger than Daily Kos. ... But, hey, it's 4 or 5 times bigger than a lone law professor blogging in his spare time from Tennessee! ... P.S.: Don't worry, Pinch. Eric Alterman says Wall Street doesn't care about these quotidian Web stats. Not one tiny bit!  ...12:10 P.M.

Maguire buries the lede: He argues that by the time she was named as a CIA operative as the result of nefarious administration leaks,  Valerie Plame had already been "outed"  as an agent either by Aldrich Ames or by an inadvertent leak to Cuba. Seems plausible enough! But that doesn't explain those eight redacted pages  discussing Fitzgerald's brief that are thought to detail harm to U.S. interests. ... Maguire's more powerful point would seem to be: If the harm to the country was so great, why did Plame's annoyingly egomaniacal husband, Joseph Wilson, thrust himself into the public spotlight in a way almost guaranteed to eventually cause his wife's employment to be discovered and publicized? (It's not as if Wilson thought he was the only thing stopping the country from going to war, remember. The Iraq invasion had already taken place by the time Wilson went public. We were in the recriminations phase.) 5:01 P.M. link

Kinsley mocks the New York Times'positions on the questions of a) a "journalists' privilege" and b)  limiting how much a candidate can spend campaigning:

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