If you plan to read Judy Miller’s long and circuitous apology in the New York Times Sunday edition, bring your hip-waders. The obfuscating manure is knee deep and bound to stymie even the most curious reader.
Miller’s a slippery customer, but a picture is slowly developing of someone who was deeply involved in White House maneuverings to discredit Joseph Wilson.
It’s clear now that Dick Cheney’s right-hand man, Scooter Libby, provided Miller with the name of ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame’s name appears at least twice in the notebook Miller used when she interviewed Libby although she pretends that she cannot remember whether or not he furnished the name.
It’s also clear that Libby tried to coerce Miller into silence by dispatching his lawyer, Joseph Tate, to tell Miller that she “was free to testify” but that Libby “had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife.” In other words, Libby lied to the Grand Jury and was signaling to Miller to shut up. If Miller told the truth she knew that Libby would go to jail and the administration would be exposed as plotting to disgrace Joseph Wilson.
Fortunately, Miller got tired of her role as First amendment “martyr” and decided to testify. That prompted Libby to send her a frantic letter which stated that “the public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me.” Libby was informing Miller as clearly as possible that she was the key figure in the investigation and advising her not to spill the beans.
Miller had a problem though, she had no way of knowing what the other reporters had said to the Grand Jury and she also had to weigh the possibilities of being indicted on perjury or obstruction charges. So she did what most people would do in her situation: she tiptoed through the questioning, “denying and forgetting” as much as possible.
It’s beginning to look like Miller is the pivotal figure in the investigation and her role could be the undoing of the Bush regime. In one telling comment, Millers notes that (two days before Robert Novak’s article appeared in the Washington Post exposing CIA agent Valerie Plame) “I MIGHT HAVE CALLED OTHERS ABOUT MR WILSON’S WIFE.”
Really? Two days before Novak’s earthshaking article Miller was giving out Plame’s name?!
This suggests that Miller may have been the ONLY reporter who got Plame’s name from Libby and then spread it around to everyone else. No wonder Libby’s so worried. That puts Miller at the very center of the Bush administration’s biggest nightmare. Miller already admitted that Libby had told her that Plame “worked at Winpac. Winpac stood for Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control, the name of a unit within the CIA that, among other things, analyses the spread of unconventional weapons.” (NY Times)
That’s an odd thing to confide in a reporter if it’s not intended to start a “leak”. Remember, Miller never even wrote a story about anything she gathered from these private interviews with Libby.
So, what was her role? Were they just friends having a casual conversation or was she a mule for the information that the White House wanted to disseminate about Wilson?
Libby also asked Miller to have the Times refer to him as a “former Hill staffer” rather than “a senior administration official” in stories written about Wilson. He obviously didn’t want it to seem like the administration was carrying out a personal vendetta against Wilson.
No problem. The administration makes a request and the New York Times carries it out forthwith. One hand washes the other.
The question remains, though, why the cover-up? Why would Libby care what the papers call him if, as he claims, he wasn’t doing anything wrong?
The larger question is, however, where did Libby get Valerie Plame’s name? The only person who would have had access to classified CIA information like that would have been his boss, Dick Cheney.
Cheney presided over a secret group of administration hawks known as the White House Iraq Group (WHIG). Their mission was to promote the danger of Saddam’s WMD and discredit those who tried to mitigate the danger. The biggest part of their strategy was to exaggerate the threat of Saddam’s imaginary nuclear weapons program. The administration knew through their own polling data that the American people would support a preemptive war if it appeared as though Saddam had nuclear weapons. So, it was incumbent on them to make the case.
Wilson’s op-ed piece in the New York Times, challenged the administration’s conclusions about Niger yellow cake uranium, and undermined the claims about Saddam’s nuclear capacity. So, Wilson had to be destroyed.
Miller, who had served as the conduit for most of the administration’s phony stories about biological weapons sites, mobile-weapons labs, and aluminum tubes for nukes, was the logical choice to start the smear campaign against Wilson. Her role was to spread the “classified information” to her sources in the media who would, in turn, discredit Wilson.
Libby has done his best to protect Cheney from being implicated, saying that the VP didn’t know anything about Wilson, but the claim is absurd. As Jason Leopold notes in Raw Story, “Cheney was present at several of the WHIG’s meetings. They say Cheney personally discussed with individuals in attendance at least two interviews in May and June of 2003 Wilson gave to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus, in which he claimed the administration ‘twisted’ prewar intelligence and what the response from the administration should be.” (Jason Leopold, “Vice President’s Role in outing of CIA agent under Examination,” Raw Story, )
Leopold’s article also points out the cozy relationship between the Miller and the members of WHIG prior to the Iraq war. After Miller had written her damning article about aluminum tubes in Iraq that could be used as centrifuges in nuclear weapons (a story that was later discredited), Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and Rice swung into high-gear, flooding the Sunday talk shows and citing the story as proof that Saddam’s nukes would ultimately engulf America in a “mushroom cloud.”
The media’s disinformation campaign must have been coordinated with Miller and key members of the Bush administration. The plan worked flawlessly. Clearly, both Miller and NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger were intimately involved in manufacturing the fraudulent evidence that dragged the nation to war. Neither has ever expressed any regret over the role they played.
Ironically, Libby’s cryptic comments to Miller may turn out to be the best summary of the ongoing investigation. He said, “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.”
Yes, and if Libby goes down, so will Cheney, Rove, Card, Rice, and perhaps even Bush, because “their roots connect them.”
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Related Articles
Miller, the Fourth Estate and the Warfare State by Norman Solomon
Other Articles by Mike Whitney
* The Iraqi
Constitution: A Cynical Cover for Partition