Judy Miller: She Walks, She Talks - But Does She Write?

The Judy Miller mystery — or rather, the Judy Miller pyramid of mysteries — continues to grow.

By now, no doubt, you know that Miller is not only out of jail but is testifying before Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury — something she had adamantly refused to do for months, including 85 days of incarceration. The tortured explanation for this about-face presented in this morning’s New York Times seemed to boil down to squabbles among lawyers (Miller’s lawyers and lawyers for Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s right-hand man) as to whether and when Libby offered Miller a waiver from their confidential source agreement. The Times piece had about it a certain surreal air, like a document pored over and amended by one too many lawyers and one too many editors. Reading it, one could imagine Miller telling Libby and Fitzgerald:

Oh, silly me, I seem to have misunderstood what you said three months ago, and consequently I spent most of the summer behind bars. Ah well, no hard feelings — where and when do I show up to spill the beans that I have kept under lock and key up ‘til now? And, oh, by the way, should I bring an edited version of my notes? They’re yours for the asking.

Deciphering that article is a task for mystery deconstructionists of the highest order.

But there’s another mystery that fascinates us just as much. Miller was apparently sprung at 3:55 yesterday afternoon. The Philadelphia Inquirer was first to break the story, posting it on its Web site around 7:00 pm. (James Tate, Libby’s attorney, is a Philadelphia lawyer.) The Times, Miller’s employer, waited for five hours after the fact before it finally posted its own first report of the release, at about 8:45 last night.

Could it be that, in the giddiness of the moment, Miller and her attorney(s) neglected to inform Times executive editor Bill Keller and publisher Arthur Sulzberger that their favorite martyr was out of the can and roaming Washington D.C., free as a bird?

For whatever reason, for hours the Times held back the story about Miller’s release and let itself be scooped by multiple other news oulets. Were editors trying to miss the evening news cycle and “avoid the overnight thrashing their spin has rightly received,” as Arianna Huffington put it? Or is something else at play here — perhaps a disagreement between Miller’s lawyer, Robert Bennett, and the Times’ own counsel, Floyd Abrams, as how to proceed?

We don’t know. Just as we don’t know why Miller was jailed in the first place for not revealing the source of a story that she never wrote and the Times never published.

Here’s hoping Miller follows the lead of Time magazine’s Matt Cooper and emerges from her grand jury inquisition to tell all of us what she told Mr. Fitzgerald and his platoon of interrogators. And to write something more informative than the Times’ befuddled “who’s on first?” piece that ran in this morning’s paper.

That, at least, would be a start to peeling back the layers within layers of who said what to whom, and about whom, that have grown around this case — which now resembles some sort of berserk onion that keeps adding new skins.

Steve Lovelady

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Steve Lovelady was editor of CJR Daily.