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August 15, 2005

Judith Miller.

A very dodgy piece of logic here from the NY Times about Judith Miller.

If she is not willing to testify after 41 days, then she is not willing to testify. It's time for the judge and the prosecutor to let Ms. Miller go.

Leave aside for a moment the questions of whether she should bein jail at all. Whether it was Karl Rove who leaked the name, the very question of journalistic privilege at all.

Look at what is actually being said here. Ms. Miller has been sentenced for contempt of court. Along with the punishments for perjury it is the bedrock, the cornerstone of a system that uses the courts to enforce the law. If people are allowed to lie to courts, or refuse to answer questions put to them, (witnesses and defendants are asked to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the t, after all) then the entire system cannot work at all.

So what the NY Times is actually asking is that we should put the (non-existent but desired) privilege of journalists above the very existence of the rule of law.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been prosecuted, perhaps she shouldn’t have been convicted, perhaps shereally shouldn’t be in jail at all. But to say that she is there for defying the very basis of a free society, the rule of law, and that her continued defiance means that she should therefore be let off.

Breathtaking arrogance.

August 15, 2005 in Media | Permalink


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The right to silence is a legal protection enjoyed by people undergoing police interrogation or trial in certain countries. The law is either explicit or recognized in many legal systems.

The right covers a number of issues centred around the right to refuse to answer questions. This can be the right to avoid self-incrimination or the right to not answer any questions. The right usually includes the provision that adverse comment or inferences cannot be made by the judge or jury about the refusal to answer questions before or during a trial or hearing. The right extends from the moment of suspension of freedom of movement (which is most often arrest) to the end of the trial.

The legal basis for the right to silence is that the state should have the responsibility for proving a defendant's guilt. In addition, there is the practical matter that when faced with the power of the state, defendants have been easily coerced into giving false confessions, and that allowing the state to coerce testimony creates a strong incentive on the state to use torture.

Tim adds: Indeed. But I’m not sure that covers Grand Jury investigationsin hte US does it? And isn’t that the problem?

Posted by: mellowchellow | Aug 15, 2005 10:44:11 AM

Touble is, I think, that this is the old case of immoveable force meeting immoveable object!

The judge is right in placing her in the slammer for refusing to tsetify, and the reporter is within her rights not to give up her source! I believe that the judge is better placed in terms of the law, but if Judith gives up her source, as the newspaper has already done in the case of the other reporter in the trial, she feels that no one will ever trust a reporter to maintain anonymity again! No more anonymous whistleblowers, no more "Deep Throats"!

Posted by: Mike Cunningham | Aug 15, 2005 11:01:01 AM

That should have been irresistable force, but you get my drift?

Posted by: Mike Cunningham | Aug 15, 2005 11:02:43 AM

Ms. Miller is not protecting a source. She simply will not reveal the discussion from her end. I believe that the DA already knows her source - which makes Miller's actions appear to be self-serving, rather than noble.

BTW, Tim, you have done it again. After summing up Paul Krugman's entire career in a single phrase, you done the same with the NYT.
"Breathtaking arrogance"...the modern NYT summed up in two words. Well done.

Posted by: Major John | Aug 15, 2005 2:56:59 PM

"Breathtaking arrogance"?

You haven't been paying attention. This is the New York Times we're talking about here. This is par for the course for The World's Moral Arbiter and Newspaper of Record(tm).

Posted by: Sachem | Aug 15, 2005 4:48:57 PM

My God,
You aren't seriously suggesting she be punished when she's SINCERE IN HER BELIEFS!

Posted by: Colin | Aug 16, 2005 4:14:38 AM