October 16, 2005
A Cluster of Monsters

During Nixon’s presidency I was having lunch one day with Les Whitten, who co-wrote Jack Anderson’s muckraking column back then. Like all worthwhile investigative reporters, Les despised power and those who held it.

Across the room from us was Hugh Sidey, an access journalist who wrote a weekly column on the White House for Life magazine. “There sits a man,” Les said, “who makes his living getting along with monsters.”

I thought of that while reading Judith Miller’s ode to herself in the Times today, during which she touched only briefly on the puzzling question of why she insisted on going to jail in the first place. “She has the keys to release herself,” Judge Hogan had pointed out accurately. “She has a waiver she chooses not to recognize."

But the accompanying front page story in today’s Times cleared that little matter up:

Mr. Freeman advised Ms. Miller to remain in jail until Oct. 28, when the term of the grand jury would expire and the investigation would presumably end.

Mr. Bennett thought that was a bad strategy; he argued that Mr. Fitzgerald would “almost certainly” empanel a new grand jury, which might mean Ms. Miller would have to spend an additional 18 months behind bars …

Claudia Payne, a Times editor and a close friend of Ms. Miller, said that once Ms. Miller realized that her jail term could be extended, “it changed things a great deal. She said, ‘I don’t want to spend my life in here.’ “

This is to say that the Times’s Joan of Arc was willing to spend 85 days in jail for a pal, but 18 months was pushing things.

Still, why was she willing to spend even the 85 days? She answers that for us, too:

When I was last before the grand jury, Mr. Fitzgerald posed a series of questions about a letter I received in jail last month from Mr. Libby. The letter, two pages long, encouraged me to testify. “Your reporting, and you, are missed,” it begins …

Mr. Fitzgerald also focused on the letter’s closing lines. “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning,” Mr. Libby wrote. “They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.”

Libby was telling Miller that she had made her point sufficiently. Now she could remain in the cluster, turning in perfect harmony.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at October 16, 2005 04:00 PM
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