The Infuriating Judy Miller

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What to do with former NY Times reporter Judy Miller? In a speech to Kansas State students, Miller made several commonsense points about secrecy in government. From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

[Miller] said the balance between national security and civil liberties has been tipped, allowing the Bush administration to become secretive about its decisions, intrusive into public lives and reluctant to share information the public has a right to know…”We are less free and less safe,” she said.

Right on. But then there’s this gem, which comes during a fret about weakening standards of journalism:

“I’m worried about bloggers,” she said. “(A post) starts as a rumor and within 24 hours it’s repeated as fact.”

Let’s talk about standards of journalism, shall we? Judy Miller repeatedly pushed questionable intelligence — most of which turned out to be false — on the front pages of the New York Times, influencing public debate on the question of whether or not to go to war. Because Miller was at best a careerist blinded by phenomenal access who simply didn’t ask enough questions and at worst the knowing crony of a dishonest administration, the influences exerted on that debate were exactly the ones the Bush Administration, trying to make a case for an unsupportable war to an unconvinced public, wanted. Miller then went to jail, supposedly to protect the first amendment rights of journalists, while actually protecting the reputation and career of a crook of a source (but reliable for high-level leaks!) bent on destroying the reputation and career of a husband-wife team opposed to the administration’s policies.

So, yeah, keeping fighting the good fight, Judy.

From the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline, an example of Judy Miller’s role in leading a nation to war.

December 20, 2001: New York Times reporter Judith Miller writes a front-page story for the paper titled “AN IRAQI DEFECTOR TELLS OF WORK ON AT LEAST 20 HIDDEN WEAPONS SITES.” The source is a man delivered to Miller by Ahmed Chalabi. The man failed a CIA polygraph test before the article came out, and his claims were discredited by informed intelligence experts. The polygraph is not mentioned in Miller’s story. “Government experts” call his information “reliable and significant.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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