The more that I think about the denouement of Judith Miller’s three-month stay in prison, the less sense it makes. It didn’t sound right to me last night when word leaked that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby had given her a personal assurance that she could name him as her source, even though he had repeatedly waived any confidentiality agreement before she went to jail. Now, having read some of the comments by her attorney Bob Bennett, it makes no sense at all.
Power Line notes that Bennett blames Libby for not speaking up sooner and letting Miller off the hook:
Miller’s lawyer Bob Bennett is way out of line as he makes the rounds of the talk shows suggesting that Scooter Libby should have called Judith Miller earlier to personally assure her that she had his permission to testify. For example, he told Wolf Blitzer:
Mr. Libby knew where Judy was. He had her phone number. They knew each other. There was no secret where she was. So I find it amazing that somebody would suggest that Judy would unnecessarily spend 85 days in jail.
I find amazing that Bennett would say something this ridiculous. As CNN has reported, Libby’s lawyer (Joseph Tate) told Miller’s original lawyer (Floyd Abrams) a year ago that she could testify as to Libby’s conversation with Miller. And Libby himself testified twice before the grand jury about his conversation with Miller. Thus, Libby would have had no reason to contact Miller’s attorney again. As Tate told CNN, Libby assumed that Miller was protecting another source, as she very likely was.
I think Power Line has this right. The agreement between her and Fitzgerald sets this up perfectly. She agreed only to testify to narrow questioning, presumably about only Libby. That allows her to get out of the grand jury without talking about whoever else knew about Plame or whatever Fitzgerald thinks she has. Fitzgerald went along with it, which seems doubly odd to me, and perhaps indicates that he doesn’t have much of a case after all. He may want to wrap this up and head back to his Chicago investigation.
So in the end, what did her three months in prison accomplish? Fitzgerald already had Libby’s testimony, and Miller already had a few waivers from Scooter to testify as well. If Fitzgerald allowed Miller to walk without having other sources explored, then why bother to imprison her in the first place? It looks like Miller protected a source that never had much to fear from Fitzgerald all along.
UPDATE: The Gray Lady can’t figure it out either. Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times that all Miller got was the same deal other witnesses got from Fitzgerald without having to spend a night in jail:
Two developments drove the decision of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to testify about conversations with a confidential source, to appear before a grand jury in Washington yesterday in exchange for her freedom, she and her lawyers said yesterday.
One was a long phone call with the source. The other was a deal with the special prosecutor in the case.
But three recent letters from people involved in the case debate whether a similar deal may have been available for some time and raise questions about why Ms. Miller decided to testify now.
In fact, Libby wanted Miller to testify, according to Liptak, because he thought Miller’s testimony would help him with Fitzgerald. Her refusal to accept his earlier waivers took him by surprise. Libby finally contacted Miller directly to urge her to testify. Nor did Miller win any special favors from Fitzgerald in keeping the focus of his questions narrow. Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post got essentially the same deal without bunking at the hoosegow.
So now even her own newspaper can’t figure out why she served the last three months in jail. Didn’t Liptak just think to ask her — or is this gobbledygook her reply?