Judy Miller is in jail. Matt Cooper and Bob Novak are not. Judy Miller is in jail not for what she did or what she said, but for what she knows (and won’t say). Matt Cooper maintained his silence up to the moment he was given an "unconditional pardon" by his “source” after which he apparently sang. Bob Novak apparently never gave singing a second thought. After all it was he who outed Valerie Plame Wilson. Judith Miller works for The New York Times. She didn’t give an inch and didn’t get a inch. The Times backed her to the last and is still doing so. Matt and Bob both work for Time Warner – the first writing for Time, the second continuing to cash in big for CNN appearances. Time helped push Matt over the edge, and one wonders if Time Warner's connections with the Bush Administration facilitated the “pardon”. One also wonders if working for that bastion of Liberalism, The Times, sealed Judy Miller’s fate from the start. It’s ironic of course that she was one of those reporters whose stories (source Ahmad Chalabi) helped the Administration by giving credibility to those phantom WMDs. But that was then, this is now.
I see in Judy Miller and her being jailed for what she knows as a metaphor for our troubling times. Thanks to the Patriot Act there are others in jail (for more than four months) not necessarily for what they know and won’t say, but for who they are. To be sure among the detainees in Gitmo and elsewhere there are some really bad and dangerous people, but we know a significant number there are caught in the “usual suspects” net. As best I can remember whatever it is that resides in my head, even the most evil thoughts (which I don’t have), is not a crime in the United States. It’s a good thing because our penal system is even more stretched than our military. One can’t have lived through the McCarthy era without feeling a shiver down your spine in hearing about the government monitoring the books you check out of the library – I wonder if they will soon put surveillance on the booksellers who have set up shop in front of Zabars or at flea markets around America.
Some say the facts surrounding Judy Miller’s refusal to reveal sources is are not as clear cut First Amendment issues as they might be. Perhaps so. I leave that to the lawyers and the few in the press who may be trying to justify that from time to time they were not so careful about protecting sources. In my own view when it comes to maintaining a free press which may be our only protection in times like these, I err on the side of the broadest possible interpretation. Perhaps Judy Miller’s source for that unwritten story, that information she has in her head but never shared, doesn’t qualify as a whistle blower, but so what. We certainly don’t want to take the slightest chance that making a reporter spill the beans will have a chilling effect on future whistle blowers. Judy Miller is in an American jail for saying nothing when Colin Powell is free for saying what he knew (or at least thought might not be) true. Judy Miller's silence has had (from all reports) no impact on the case against Leaker X, thousands have died because of what Powell said. Miller seems to have more principles than Powell. That said, is there any doubt that Judy Miller and Colin Powell are equally loyal and proud Americans? Of course not. And as for the Supreme Court not taking on the case. I guess the courts aren’t such activists after all.