Self-proclaimed journalistic hero Judith Miller resigns

After helping the Bush administration build its case for invading Iraq, and then, under the guise of protecting a whistleblower, protecting a source that actually sought to discredit a whistleblower (a confusion shared by many journalists), “it had been made clear to Ms. Miller that she would not be able to continue as a reporter of any kind,” and she has now resigned from The New York Times. Though the Times sought to be gracious about Miller’s departure, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “[A]fter U.S. troops failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Times acknowledged lapses in some of its prewar Iraq coverage, a mea culpa widely read as an affront to Miller.”

Many progressives confounded her performance on weapons of mass destruction with her performance in Plame-gate, in which she refused to divulge her source, I. Lewis Libby Jr. In both cases, she acted as a propaganda whore for the administration; many have challenged her “entanglement” with Libby as improper. But there are important distinctions to be made:

  • In her reporting on weapons of mass destruction, The New York Times shared what were largely her faults. She did not critically examine what her anonymous sources were telling her. Neither did her editors.
  • In passing on Valerie Plame’s name, exposing her as a CIA operative, Miller cooperated in the Bush administration’s effort to retaliate against Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, who, after investigating Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Niger, publicly concluded that they were unfounded. If there was a whistleblower in this case, it was Wilson; Miller participated in an administration attempt to silence him and to retaliate against him, perverting the intent of protection for anonymous sources.

If the intent of a free press is to serve as a check on political power, Miller has instead exposed The New York Times as anything but. After all this, “Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The Times, said: ‘We are grateful to Judy for her significant personal sacrifice to defend an important journalistic principle,’ adding, ‘I respect her decision to retire from The Times and wish her well.'”

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