Judith Miller, A Woman of Character

by Paul I. Adujie

What did Judith Miller do? Many civil libertarians outside of the United States see America as the beacon of hope and an epitome of freedom, liberty, democracy and all that is good. Jailing journalists sends the wrong message

In recent times, however, the Bush administration has engaged in actions and activities that we, formerly, only expected from dictators and tyrants of this world; actions replete with arbitrary and draconian policy pursuits, leading to legal offensives, several American journalists, including, Ms. Miller, who is not a criminal and she does not belong in prison!

The actions of federal prosecutors regarding Ms. Miller is not much different from the equally draconian enforcement of sedition laws in Uganda this week, against a radio journalist, Mr. Mwenda, whose radio station was shutdown, for airing a program which was found unpleasant by President Museveni of Uganda. Now imagine US and Uganda being mentioned in the same sentence, as meting similar maltreatments to journalists whose only offense is practicing their profession!

As an immigrant, I have come to take press freedom for granted in America; in my homeland, Nigeria, a journalist was jailed under similar circumstances as Judith Miller, this was many decades ago, while I was still very young, and I recall that all Nigerian journalists made sure that the public did not forget the jailed journalist, as all newspapers devoted a space in the top right corner of all cover pages, to these immortal words, “what did Amakiri do” Amakiri being the name of the jailed journalist. The words were printed on the front pages of all the papers for a very long duration, demanding his release, I think, until the matter was resolved.

Similarly, during the military interregnum in Nigeria that lasted about 15 years and ended only in 1999, two journalists, Messrs Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, were jailed, in clear violations of the freedom of the press principles enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria; Nigerians, but especially the Nigerian journalists, were up in arms with their pens, peppering the Nigerian government at the time, to release the journalists. Pressures were mounted and sustained.

But here in America, Judith Miller is in jail for upholding fine principles, and everyone in America is in some sorts of ear-piercing silence! Where is everybody? Why is there no agitation for Ms. Miller’s release? Why is the controversy dead? Shouldn’t we all demand the release of Ms Miller? Why are we not asking, “What Did Judith Miller Do?

It is perplexing, trying to understand the rationale for the investigations by the prosecutors which has culminated in the Judith Miller jailing. Perplexed is the same word used by Senator Bob Dole, in his article in The New York Times, in which he described the circumstances. Senator Dole is a republican and US senator for more than 27 years, and a former presidential candidate in these United States. He certainly understands national security and war; he was in the US military and saw actual combat.

Since the investigations and jailing of Ms. Miller, the usual refrain has been that America is at war, and the nation can therefore least afford the lapses and misjudgments that led to the “outing” or exposing of the identify of Ms. Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA employee to dangerous risks, due to her having been publicly identified as such. As Senator Dole rightly pointed out, the special federal prosecutor have only so far succeeded in putting Ms. Miller in jail for refusing to break her promise of confidentiality to her sources in response to a grand jury subpoena; Even though, Ms. Miller has never written a word that would amount to publicly identifying a CIA officer! This is the issue!

President Bush’s administration has aggressively and vigorously pursued several journalists in the United States as a deliberate policy, to stifle press freedom, and journalists may not be able to ask hard probing questions, as they may engage in self-censorship, due to fear prison or legal troubles, there is already a chilling effect on journalistic tools, including use of the confidentiality principle.

Protecting sources by maintaining promised confidentiality, journalists in America and elsewhere are able to receive useful information, in their arduous tasks of keeping the public informed and enlightened, and to put things in proper perspectives, it will be recalled that an article in The New York Times by Ambassador Joseph P. Wilson IV, husband of Ms. Valerie Plame Wilson, led to the vindictive actions by some who tried to silence or intimidate Ambassador Wilson by publicly identifying his wife, an employee of the CIA.

It must be remembered that the specifics of Ambassador Wilson’s article was to expose the misrepresentations and frauds committed by some in the Bush administration on its way to war, or to the invasion and occupation of the nation of Iraq and the needless war that is still raging there. Ambassador Wilson debunked the Weapons of Mass Destruction pretexts contained in the State of the Union address, the accusations against Saddam Hussein imbued with a claim to the effect that Saddam had purchased yellow cake uranium substance from the African nation of Niger, a country that is currently famine and hunger stricken.

First, Judith Miller did not expose or publicly identify any CIA employee. Second, those who actually engaged in publicly identifying a CIA employee, with all the dangers, risks and consequences, did so maliciously, to intimidate and spite the Wilsons! Robert D. Novak is not in jail, even though it is he, whose July 14, 2003 column mentioned Ms. Wilson and thereby publicly identified her. Mr. Novak has stated that CIA officials confirmed to him that Ms. Wilson in fact was an employee of the CIA. As he fact checked, before the publication of his column. Which would be a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 and Novak’s article and his sources is within the purview and contemplation of that 1982 Act.

Ambassador Wilson performed a public service when he publicly disclosed that there was no truth to the allegations by the Bush administration of a yellow cake-uranium transaction between the African nation of Niger and Saddam. Ambassador Wilson sought to portray the bogus, fraudulent and useless information fed to the American people and the rest of the world by the Bush team for what it was a fraud! That fraud was a precursor to the war in Iraq, which has now resulted in the loss of almost 2000 American soldiers and tens of thousand Iraqis! Why is the American public, and particularly, American journalists quiet? Why?

Reporter’s Privilege is similar to Whistle Blower Laws or Freedom of Information Acts, in intendments and rationales are for the service of society’s common good or greater good. It has in the past, enabled Bob Woodward to expose a federal crime through a source, an informant, Deep Throat, now known to be Mr. Felt who was assured confidentiality by Mr. Woodward, which gave Mr. Felt the confidence and shield he sorely needed from President Nixon’s operatives and the source was protected for decades.

Reporter’s Privilege or the protection of sources and preservation of confidentiality is really not about the journalists, it is about access to useful information that could prevent crimes and wrongdoing by public officials and others, such as the extraordinary lies that preceded the war in Iraq.

Amazingly, not many Americans are rising to the defense of Ms. Judith Miller. She does not belong in jail! But through her ordeal, she has demonstrated excellent and strong character, utmost courage, strict adherence to prodigious integrity, as she continues to observe her impeccable and principled stance for our freedoms, particularly, press freedom! But where is everybody? Why is everybody quiet about Ms. Miller’s very harsh ordeal?

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1 comment

Sabella O. Abidde August 22, 2005 - 3:52 pm

"Not many Americans are rising to the defense of Ms. Judith Miller" because she disobeyed a Judges order! No one is above the law or should be allowed to "spit" at a Judge. Its that plain and simple.

If her rights were being abridged the entire Fourth Estate and the general public would have risen to her defense. And the ACLU too would have marshaled all their resources in her defense. The Supreme Court would probably have the final say about the matter. And dont forget that this is principally about national security.

Why put the life and safety of a CIA operative in danger If those who revealed the identity of a CIA officer are allowed to get away…who is next…whose life and safety is going to be compromised next National security officers should be allowed to do their jobs without the added burden of partisan politics or personal vendetta.

I feel sorry for her that she has other personal tribulations…but all she has to do is reveal the identity of the reckless snitch and she will be set free.


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