October 26, 2005
The Untold Story: Joseph Wilson, Judith Miller and the
The savage left-wing attack on Judith Miller from inside and outside
of the New York Times completely misses the point. She
is under attack for being a lackey of the Bush Administration
when she failed to do the administration and the public a big
favor. She could have done a potential Pulitzer Prize-winning
story that could have broken the Joseph Wilson case wide open.
It is a story exposing the Wilson mission to Africa as a CIA operation
designed to undermine President Bush.
For 85 days
in jail, Miller protected her source, Lewis Libby, Vice President
Dick Cheney's chief of staff, but the fact remains that she never
used the explosive information Libby gave her. Now we know, according
to Miller's account, that Libby told her about a CIA war with
the Bush Administration over Iraq intelligence and that he vociferously
complained to her about CIA leaks to the press. But Miller decided
that what Libby told her was not newsworthy. Why?
We were critical
of Miller from the start because she went to jail rather than
testify under oath and tell the truth before a grand jury. Eventually,
she did testify, under questionable and mysterious circumstances.
She claims she insisted that her testimony be restricted to her
conversations with Libby. Clearly, Miller had a relationship with
Libby as a source. On that matter, she is "guilty" as
charged. But the media attacks on Miller really show her critics
do not regard Libby as a source worth protecting. Libby, according
to columnist Frank Rich, is a "neocon" who misled the
nation to get us into the Iraq War. On the other hand, Wilson
is supposed to be a hero and whistleblower. He came back from
Africa, after investigating the Iraq-uranium link, and concluded
that the Bush Administration was lying. His wife, CIA employee
Valerie Plame, had her identity revealed by conservative columnist
Robert Novak because Bush officials were upset that her husband
had told the truth. At least this is their version of the facts.
But if Miller
was too cozy with the White House, why didn't she rush into print
with Libby's version of events and use him as an anonymous source?
Miller couldn't even be counted on to do a story based on high-level
information provided to her by the vice president's top aide.
It was information that was not only true but explosive. Libby
was letting Miller in on the real story of the Wilson affair--that
the CIA was out to get the President, and that the agency was
using Wilson to get Bush.
that she didn't write a story has been cited many times, supposedly
to prove that Miller should never have been called by Special
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald before the grand jury. If she didn't
write a story, we were told, she shouldn't have to be ordered
to talk about her sources. Fitzgerald obviously believed the information
she had about her sources was relevant to the case. And it was.
But Miller didn't write any of this up at the time. That's mighty
strange behavior for a pawn of the administration.
In my recent
special report on this matter, former prosecutor Joseph diGenova
called the Wilson mission a CIA "covert operation" against
Bush. Like the Novak column, a Miller story about this matter
could have raised questions about the purpose of the trip and
who was behind it. But if Miller had done such a story for the
Times, the impact could have been enormous. After all,
the Times was the chosen vessel for Wilson to write his
column claiming there was no Iraq uranium deal with Niger.
have revealed that Wilson was recommended for the mission by his
own wife, a CIA employee. His wife's role was critically important
because a truly undercover CIA operative would not recommend her
husband for an overseas trip and then expect to maintain her "secret"
identity as he proceeded to write an article for the New York
Times and become a public spectacle because of it. Her role
in the trip means that she was not undercover in any real sense
of the word.
As I have
noted previously, Herbert Romerstein, a former professional staff
member of the House Intelligence Committee, says that Plame's
involvement in sending her husband on the CIA mission to Africa
meant that when Wilson went public about it, foreign intelligence
services would investigate all of his family members for possible
CIA connections. Those intelligence services would not simply
assume that he went on the mission because he was a former diplomat.
They would investigate his wife. And that would inevitably lead
to unraveling the facts about Valerie Wilson, or Valerie Plame,
and her involvement with the CIA. Romerstein says that Plame's
role in arranging the mission for her husband is solid proof that
she was not concerned about having her "cover" blown
because she was not truly under cover.
By any account,
she was hardly a James Bond-type. Plame's "cover," a
company called "Brewster-Jennings & Associates,"
was so flimsy that she used it as her affiliation when she made
a 1999 contribution to Al Gore for president. She identified herself
as "Valerie Wilson" in this case. The same Federal Election
Commission records showing her contribution to Gore also reveal
a $372 contribution to America Coming Together, when the group
was organizing to defeat Bush.
had done some extra digging, she would have discovered that, contrary
to what Wilson said publicly in the Times, his findings
were interpreted by many officials as additional evidence of an
Iraqi interest in obtaining uranium. This kind of story, if it
had been published in the New York Times, could have
completely undermined Wilson's credibility. It would have made
it ridiculous for the Times to subsequently demand the
appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush White
House. The Times went ahead and made that editorial demand,
only to have it backfire on the paper when Fitzgerald demanded
The CIA obviously
knew the facts of the case. Nevertheless, with Wilson and the
media, led by the Times, generating a feeding frenzy
over the publication of his wife's name and affiliation, the agency
pushed for a Justice Department investigation, on the false premise
that revealing her identity was a crime. This is what started
it all. It was the perfect way to divert attention from a much-needed
investigation of the CIA, the ultimate source of the questionable
intelligence that the administration used to make the case for
the Iraq War.
some members of the press caught up with some parts of the truth.
Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post was honest enough
to admit, when the evidence came out, that Wilson had misrepresented
his wife's role. Schmidt reported that the Senate Intelligence
Committee report found that he was specifically recommended for
the mission by his wife, "contrary to what he has said publicly."
By then, however, the media feeding frenzy was well underway and
the facts of the case were being buried or shunted aside. And
this takes us to where we are today--wondering whether Fitzgerald
will indict Bush officials for making conflicting statements about
the facts of the case. If the investigation was a real desire
for truth and justice, Fitzgerald would drop the case and accuse
the CIA of pursuing the matter for an illegitimate political reason.
It's the CIA--not the White House--that should be under investigation.
deserves criticism, it is for failing to write the story when
Libby handed it to her on a silver platter. She had the perfect
opportunity to set the record straight about some misinformation
that had already appeared in her own paper. After all, it was
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who had asserted, in
a May 6, 2003, column, that "I'm told by a person involved
in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's
office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former
U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger." We now
know that Wilson was the source of this information, and that
it was false. He whitewashed the nature of the CIA role in the
trip because he wanted to protect his wife. Wilson wanted people
to think that the Vice President's office was somehow behind his
We also know,
because of Miller's account of her testimony under oath, that
it was because of this misinformation that Libby talked to Miller
and wanted to get out the other side of the story. The Vice President's
office, said by the liberal press to be at the center of the CIA
leak "conspiracy," was justifiably outraged over Wilson
going public with misleading information about his mission and
blasting the administration in the process. Miller also testified
that she thought Plame's CIA connection "potentially newsworthy."
You bet it was. But she didn't write the story. This is where
Miller failed her paper and the public.
the record of the Times in this case. Editorially, the
Times called for the investigation but didn't want to
cooperate with it. The paper also published the misleading Wilson
and Kristof columns. And yet Miller, who didn't write anything,
is the Times journalist under fire in the press because
she wrote stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
programs before the war and later talked to Libby about how the
CIA had gotten the facts wrong! Miller has become a target even
though it's her colleagues who put the misleading Wilson column
into the paper, published Kristof's erroneous account, and called
for the probe that resulted in Miller serving jail time.
WMD stories are said by the hard left to be evidence of her reliance
on the Bush Administration for information. In fact, it shows
her dependence on the same sources that told the administration
that Iraq had WMD. Those sources included CIA director George
Tenet, a Clinton holdover, who told Bush that finding WMD in Iraq
was a "slam dunk."
We are still
left with the mystery of why Miller didn't write anything based
on what Libby told her. She says she proposed a story. Miller
and/or her editors may have been persuaded to drop it by other
sources, who may have been in the CIA. It makes perfect sense.
The CIA had been behind the Wilson trip from the beginning and,
as Libby told Miller, had been trying to undercut the administration's
Iraq policy and divert attention from the agency's poor performance
on Iraqi WMD. The CIA did not want the full extent of its role
uncovered and decided that the best way to divert attention from
its own shabby performance was to accuse Bush officials of violating
the law against identifying covert agents. This was one covert
operation by the CIA on top of another. Miller watched the whole
thing play out and refused to tell her own paper and the public
what was really happening.
that she only talked to the grand jury about her conversations
with Libby. She said she wanted to protect other sources she used
on other stories. Miller's 2001 book, Germs, on "Biological
weapons and America's secret war," has several references
to her other sources. Some are unnamed "analysts" at
My own recent
special report on this matter struck a chord with readers, one
of whom said it is a case of "the CIA undermining and eliminating
a president." But Bush is still hanging on, dismissing the
stream of stories on the case as "background noise."
Staying above the fray, when he has come under assault by America's
premier intelligence service, Bush is letting CIA director Porter
Goss do the necessary job of cleaning house at this corrupt agency.
If some of
Bush's aides now go down on dubious charges of having faulty or
inconsistent memories about the case, they could try to blow the
whistle on the CIA in court. The CIA would most likely try to
censor the proceedings on grounds of "national security"
and protecting agency "operations." For the sake of
maintaining our democratic form of government and reigning in
rogue elements at the CIA, the truth must come out.
2005 Accuracy In Media