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Throw Judy From The Train

In advance of Public Editor Byron Calame’s extensive article on the Judy escapade for Sunday’s NYTimes, Bill Keller took his own case to the staff of the Times directly today. Crooks and Liars has the text of the letter up here.

It is blunt in some places, and brutal toward Judy in a back-handed way that shows that Keller is fairly unhappy (to put it mildly) about her keeping him in the dark about a lot of things between her and Scooter.

I wish that when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed as a witness in the leak investigation, I had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own….in this case I missed what should have been significant alarm bells. Until Fitzgerald came after her, I didn’t know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the anti-Wilson whisper campaign. I should have wondered why I was learning this from the special counsel, a year after the fact. (In November of 2003 Phil Taubman tried to ascertain whether any of our correspondents had been offered similar leaks. As we reported last Sunday, Judy seems to have misled Phil Taubman about the extent of her involvement.) This alone should have been enough to make me probe deeper.

Jane’s source within the NY Times confirms that the letter was sent out to the entire staff of the Times this afternoon at 2:30 pm. The source also confirms that the issues addressed in Keller’s letter have been circulating around the Times all week long, as the staff and management grapple with the fact that Judy was way less than forthcoming with them about her own actions, and her involvement in the mess that Scooter Libby and others within the Administration have gotten themselves into with all of this.

Jane’s source tells us that “this is as much as you will ever see someone in Bill Keller’s position saying that mistakes were made.”

Keller’s letter addresses the broader issue of the Times reporting on WMD issues, and his role in decisionmaking in how the Times would deal with discrepencies in that reporting once he came on board after Howell Raines was ousted from his post in the wake of the Jayson Blair fiasco. He also talks about specifics with Judy Miller, including:

But if I had known the details of Judy’s entanglement with Libby, I’d have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises.

Sounds like the bloom is entirely off the rose for Keller, anyway.

When asked if Keller would survive this mess, Jane’s source was circumspect, saying that Keller had broader support than Raines did when he was asked to step down. The source said that Keller has more good will, more likeability and that “nobody wants to see his head on a pike, at this point.”

The news is not as good for publisher, Arthur A. “Pinch” Sulzberger, Jr., however. His role in this fiasco is being questioned by everyone on the NY Times staff. Jane’s source says, “At some point, the newspaper had a journalistic principle and interest that diverged from Judy Miller’s interests. Not sure that Sulzberger appreciated it at the time — or now.”

Keller also said the following:

By waiting a year to own up to our mistakes, we allowed the anger inside and outside the paper to fester. Worse, we fear, we fostered an impression that The Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers. If we had lanced the WMD boil earlier, we might have damped any suspicion that THIS time, the paper was putting the defense of a reporter above the duty to its readers.

Well, that’s an understatement if I ever read one, but I’ll give Keller the chance to show that he means this. The first step to making things better is to admit you have a problem.

Can’t help but feel like this is the first step to throwing Judy from the train.

UPDATE: AP has picked up the story. You can read it here.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com