The pundits are slobbering all over their keyboards writing odes to Judith Miller -- currently in jail for refusing to identify confidential sources. Perhaps these editorial writers have yet to digest that the administration insiders in question are not “whistleblowers” out to expose a government scandal. In fact, these individuals are felons who committed a national security crime to punish one Joseph Wilson -- the first whistleblower to reveal that the intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq was fixed.
All this fuss about the First Amendment and the public’s right to know is a smokescreen. The mainstream press has no real fear from outside censors -- if only because they do such a fine job of censorship without a need for government intervention. In fact, the seven or eight mass media conglomerates that dominate the collection and distribution of news often act like a media Gestapo that controls the exact dosage of information they set as our daily allowance. We should never lose sight of the fact that we live under a media controlled state -- a virtual Murdochracy where Rupert Murdoch combines forces with Arthur Sulzberger to start wars and cut estate taxes. They did more to quash anti-war dissent than the Bush administration could ever hope to do. Could the Bush administration have launched this invasion without the able assistance of the folks at CNN, FOX, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal?
Fortunately, this remains a country of laws. And media moguls are not entitled to commit felonies at will -- even while engaged in warmongering journalism.
First, let’s go through the basic arguments relevant to this case -- so Sulzberger and other ethically challenged publishers can keep pace. A serious law is broken. You know who broke it. You hand them over to the cops. End of story.
Here is an example: a White House insider tells you that the president shot Karl Rove and buried his body in the Rose Garden to avoid further embarrassment. The insider is reluctant to testify against the president and requests anonymity. You are obliged to call 911 -- even if you write for The New York Times.
Lesson 2. An insider informs you that the Vice President’s former employer received a huge no-bid contract from the Pentagon to perform services in Iraq. You verify the story and in the process you discover that Douglas Feith approved the contract. You already know that Feith is a neo-con hawk and a close ally of Cheney. Further probes reveal that Paul Bremer and his neo-con crew ran a world-class embezzlement operation in Iraq and Billions of dollars -- much of it in cold green cash -- vaporized without a trace. Two hot stories involving war profiteering and racketeering. The public will eat this up. Unfortunately, the paper you publish has solid neo-con credentials. You decide to drop both stories. That’s not illegal but you do get points for sleazy and suspect journalism -- a staple at The New York Times.
Lesson 3. The Iraqi regime had no ties to Al Qaeda and was in no way responsible for the terror attacks on 9/11. But the Bush administration wants to rally the public behind the invasion and decides to grope for any flimsy evidence that can be conjured up by Richard Perle to link Saddam to 9/11.
You assign Judith Miller to Perle duty and she volunteers to deliver this neo-con hoax to our front doors on your front page -- citing “reliable administration officials who declined to be identified.” That’s considered yellow journalism and propaganda. There’s no law against that either -- even if the end result is tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and two thousand dead American and allied soldiers. If you don’t feel guilty about it -- you’re an animal and a bloody predator. But that’s what puts the sizzle in a Sulzberger.
Lesson 4. You know all kinds of nasty things about a certain Israeli Prime Minister -- a notorious serial war criminal. But your editorial staff is one giant Ariel Sharon fan club. In fact, William Safire publicly boasts about ghost writing his speeches and articles. For his moonlighting services, you give Safire a raise. Your daddy -- Punch Sulzberger -- would be proud.
Lesson 5. You designate Judith Miller as your in-house WMD expert. She coordinates her reporting with the Office of Special Plans -- a rogue Pentagon intelligence outfit set up by Wolfowitz and Feith to fix intelligence. Miller’s role is to “confirm” OSP intelligence by consulting Ahmed Chalabi -- a convicted embezzler who is the very same source feeding the same exact garbage to the OSP. You know that Wolfowitz and Feith and Chalabi go back a long way. Judith reports their fiction as gospel truth and attributes it to two separate sources: “inside intelligence sources that declined to be identified” and “Iraqi dissidents who also refused to reveal their identity.” Technically, she has double-sourced her canards. You are aware that if Miller had bothered to identify her sources -- informed observers would recognize that Chalabi and Wolfowitz and Richard Perle are all members of the same War Party. The New York Times lets Miller pull this same prank over and over again. At the same time your editorial pages beat the drums for war based on Miller’s assertions that Iraq possessed WMDs. Thomas Friedman pipes in that he has no problem with a “war for oil” -- so long as it’s followed by an effort at conservation. How environmentally correct. At the “paper of record,” Miller and Friedman are designated hit men for the War Party. They get paid for their talents as propagandists and can take significant partial credit for a war that has turned out very badly for both Iraqis and Americans. Sulzberger is well advised to change his corporate motto to “all the news that’s fit to fix.”
Lesson 6. Classified British memos reveal that there was no intelligence failure. Rather, there was an orchestrated project to manipulate intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq. You refuse to cover this and many other stories that prove that “we went to war on the intelligence we fixed -- not the intelligence we had.” You finally relent under pressure from your readers who get wind of the story from the alternative press on the Internet. In doing so, you make sure that the Bush administration and Tony Blair get ample room to spin the story. Once again, that’s not illegal -- but it also doesn’t amount to protecting the public’s right to know. In any case, that’s not the business you’re in. Your line of work revolves around incessantly bombarding your readers with high caliber weapons of mass deception.
Lesson 7. Once it became clear that Iraq had no links to 9/11 and was probably the only major country in the region that didn’t possess WMDs, the administration shifted gears. Bush made up the unlikely story that he was really on a mission to spread liberty to the “Greater Middle East.” In a nicely coordinated move, your paper also switches gears and goes along for the ride. This will no doubt please all your pals in the administration who refuse to be identified and who promise you that the next time they feel an urge to leak, they will leak on The New York Times.
Lesson 8. Federal statutes protect and encourage whistleblowers and even reward them with financial incentives -- especially when they reveal misappropriation of public funds. Yes Virginia, the government actually has statutory incentives for diligent civil servants that blow the whistle to uphold the public interest. For obvious reasons, there is no law that protects leakers willing to commit a national security felony to settle a score with an authentic whistle blower like Joseph Wilson. Not all leakers are created equal. Some act out of a sense of loyalty to the public and others are just vindictive arrogant administration officials who believe they are above the law. Any journalist with a lick of common sense should be able to distinguish between the two.
Lesson 9. In contract law, an agreement that involves illegal activities is not a valid contract -- even if signed and sealed by both parties. Giving your word to another party might be considered an oral contract. A decent individual would abide by such a contract even if it only involved a handshake. But, whether written or oral, if one or both parties had criminal intent, the agreement is not binding.
Judith Miller and The New York Times are protecting Judith Miller and The New York Times -- not the First Amendment. The real story here is that the Plame conspiracy originated with Miller. It was Miller who gave the administration insiders the information about Plame and gave them pointers on how to leak it to certain journalists like Novak. No doubt, her moves were coordinated with the usual suspects in the neo-con cabal who toiled with her on the WMD scam and had access to Valerie Plame’s secret identity. Richard Perle and company wrote the book on the “Art of the Leak.” That also helps explain why Miller didn’t write the story. She was the source and one of the masterminds behind the Plame game. Rove and other administration officials who joined the games were just middlemen in the transaction. Miller isn’t protecting her source -- she is protecting her conduits and fellow conspirators in the administration. The trick in playing the Plame game is to keep your eye on the bouncing ball. It was thrown by Miller -- bounced off Rove’s bald head and landed in Novak’s empty skull.
As to Miller’s motives -- one only has to consider her role in the WMD scam. The neo-cons were hoping that the war would go according to their rosy projections. In which case -- no one would bother to make a fuss about the missing WMDs. Just in case the invasion turned into a disaster -- they had a back-up plan to pin the “intelligence failures” on Ahmed Chalabi -- who was more than willing to “fall on his sword.” The trouble with the Niger Yellow Cake scam was that Chalabi could not credibly take the fall for that particular hoax. That’s why Joseph Wilson’s disclosure enraged them and that’s why they scrambled to discredit and punish him. The only thing they could come up with was that his wife was a CIA agent and that she had recommended him for the Niger assignment. Miller’s role was to get the ball rolling by contacting administration officials -- including Rove -- and coaching them on how to defuse the Wilson bombshell. Far from being a free speech martyr -- Judith Miller is a serious insider who had a major role in promoting the war and on disciplining those who stepped out of line.
Now consider Sulzberger’s motives. Once the Miller/Plame scam is out in the open -- people might start asking serious questions about the ideological identity of The New York Times. In which case, the “paper of record” will lose its ill-deserved reputation for neutral and ethical reporting and reveal its true face as a major force in the War Party.
No one is suggesting that Sulzberger or Miller should be deprived of the right to advocate total war -- all the time. That’s what the First Amendment is all about. But neither Sulzberger nor Miller has a right to market their war by conspiring to commit a felony against a legitimate whistleblower. The First Amendment is not an immunity blanket for criminals. You do the crime -- you do the time. Lock them both up and throw away the keys.
Rove's Trove of Trouble by Ken Sanders
Other Articles by Ahmed Amr
is No Martyr and Sulzberger is No Saint